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Table service at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies


(L-R) Colleen Field and Joan Ritchie, CNS; Lorraine Busby, university librarian; Andy Jones; Colleen Quigley, Archives and Special Collections Division; and Mary-Lynn Bernard.

By Janet Harron

The Centre for Newfoundland Studies collects all published materials relating to Newfoundland and Labrador and offers such library services as a reading room and reference and reproduction services.

Now the centre is providing visitors a chance to spread out their research and reading on a work of art.

Andy Jones' Abbie Table, a project that combines storytelling and folklore, is on display at the centre for the next several months thanks to a suggestion by Dr. Jamie Skidmore of the Department of English.

"My reasons for wanting the Abbie Table at Memorial were both selfish and pedagogical," said Dr. Skidmore. "I'd heard and read a lot about the table, but had never had a chance to see it, so bringing it to the university would give me a first-hand glimpse. As well, most of my teaching revolves around storytelling and I thought it would be wonderful for students to have access to this work of art."

The table is a memoir of the life of Abbie Whiffen, a woman who grew up in Caplin Cove, Hant's Harbour, Trinity Bay, and describes what life was like in the small community between the 1920s and 1960s.

Mr. Jones became friends with Ms. Whiffen after purchasing her family home in the 1980s. In 2006 he decided to use her memoirs to create an art piece for a project at The Rooms. The table was subsequently finished in 2010 during Mr. Jones' stint as artist-in-residence at the Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John's.

The table is created from three 10-foot-long pieces of spruce upon which Mr. Jones transcribed Ms. Whiffen's entire 35-page manuscript. Various artists, including Ms. Whiffen's family members and professional artists, were invited to help illustrate the book. There is even a central panel painted by Gerry Squires.

The resulting work of art is similar in style to an illuminated manuscript. However, unlike its medieval counterpart, all are invited to touch, explore and examine the table. In fact, Mr. Jones is even encouraging people to eat their lunch at it.

The Centre for Newfoundland Studies is located on the third floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

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