The Battery: People of the Changing Outport exhibit, a joint effort between The Rooms Provincial Museum and Memorial University, ran from May 17 to September 9, 2007.
For their course in Public Sector Folklore, eight graduate students spent the Fall Semester 2006 gathering personal stories, images and artifacts from residents of the Battery, and exploring questions of what is being lost and gained as this St. John’s neighbourhood changes.
Folklorist Dr. Jerry Pocius taught the course, along with Mark Ferguson, curator of history at the Provincial Museum. Dr. Pocius says The Battery was chosen for its proximity to Memorial, but also because it serves as a microcosm for what’s happening around the province. "The changes in the Battery are very similar, in my mind, to what’s happening in all of rural Newfoundland in the early 21st century."
A press release from The Rooms quotes Penny Houlden, director of the rooms Provincial Museum: "This exhibit is much more than an academic view of our changing communities. It includes first-hand accounts from past and present residents in the Battery. It tells the personal stories of how people and families are affected by the changes taking place in the province and helps us understand our surrounding environment in a much more meaningful way."
The exhibit brought together hours of audio and video footage; hundreds of recent and historical photographs; as well as contemporary works of art and sculpture. This exhibit resulted in a number of other projects including a mural produced by the Choices for Youth Group from the Brother T.I. Murphy Centre, which is now displayed at the Department of Folklore, 4th floor of the Education Building, Memorial University. Fieldwork from this project also resulted in helping develop the NL Communities section of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador website. See http://www.mun.ca/ich/inventory/profiles/battery/thebattery.php. The work of students involved in The Battery project was recognized by Lorraine Michael, Leader of the New Democratic Party and MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi:
MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise in the House today to congratulate a group of students, faculty and staff at Memorial University and the Provincial Museum for their project on the St. John’s Battery, which has resulted in an innovative new display at The Rooms Provincial Museum. The students are: Jed Baker, Rita Colavincenzo, Lynda Daneliuk, Jerry Dick, Lynn Matte, Hannah Mills-Woolsey, Maureen Power and Heather Read. The project was part of a course taught by Folklore Professor Jerry Pocius of Memorial and history curator Mark Ferguson of The Rooms, with help from The Rooms exhibit designer Marni Mahle.
The students explored The Battery as a neighbourhood in transition, with similarities to some of our rural communities. They saw three waves of development through time - beginning with a community settled by fishing families wanting to be near the water; though the 1970s when artists and intellectuals were attracted by the setting and the cheap housing; and, in the last few years, an influx of wealthy newcomers from around the world, creating rising property values and a neighbourhood whose culture is changing.
Last fall, the students interviewed residents, collected stories and took photos, and even gave residents disposable cameras to record their own impressions. They went on to create the museum exhibit highlighting The Battery’s past and present, complete with a virtual walking tour.
I applaud this group for their collaborative approach, for connecting with community residents and for making their research available to a wide audience. I hope that when the exhibit ends at The Rooms in September, a permanent place can be found for it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
Hansard of the Newfoundland & Labrador Legislature, May 31, 2007; Lorraine Michael, Leader of the New Democratic Party and MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi