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Telling Tales: The True Story of the Placentia Institute of Newfoundland Studies

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PlacentiaWith its rich history, I bet the town of Placentia would be great to chat with at a party.

For that matter, I feel the same way about Bill Hogan, the town’s mayor. In February, I had the chance to chat with him about The Placentia Institute of Newfoundland Studies, a major collaborative project between the Town of Placentia, Laval High School and Memorial University.

RC: So, what’s your vision for The Placentia Institute of Newfoundland Studies?

BH: My vision is big! This collaboration with Memorial and Laval High School has the potential to offer so many opportunities to our region, and to Memorial as well. Our main goal is to organize the history of the region, not only to attract visitors and businesses, but also to showcase our community’s role in the development of both the province and the country.

RC: How did you come up with the idea for the Institute?

BH: We’ve done a lot of work in the town in the past years, and while we were looking into the heritage of the community, somewhere along the way someone came up with the idea that with so much history here, an association with Memorial’s Department of Folklore might be a good idea. I made contact with Memorial, and eventually, a group visited Placentia.

We made a presentation, and once it was over, Mike Clair, from the Harris Centre, raised his hand and asked why no one had ever organized information about the history and culture of the region before. “Exactly,” we said!

Once the partners agreed upon the idea, the town undertook to create The Placentia Institute of Newfoundland Studies and incorporated it as a charitable, not-for-profit organization. A board of directors, including representatives from the town, Memorial and Laval High School, is now in place.

RC: Why did you decide to include Laval High School as a partner?

BH: Part of my vision is that the greatest beneficiaries of the collaboration will be the students at Laval. We’re serious about directing our energy towards the education system: we’ve got a Newfoundland studies teacher and a social studies teacher, who will both be working to incorporate the Institute into the school experience. Ultimately, I’d like to see the high school students involved in the research and preparation of the information which would then be passed on through the Institute.

RC: What makes Placentia so historically interesting?

BH: A lot of communities can brag about one thing or another, but our historical bragging rights include the Basques, the English, the Irish, the French and the Americans. We’ve been both the French and the English capital of the province. We had the first school in Newfoundland, and the first legal will in North America was written here. Placentia was a part of the treaty of Utrecht and was a pit-stop for both Champlain and Cartier. We’ve seen plenty of history, and we want to share it with the world!

You can visit The Town of Placentia’s website at www.placentia.ca to find out more about the town’s long and interesting story.

And don’t forget, The Harris Centre helps match Newfoundland and Labrador opportunities with Memorial researchers. If there’s a project that your community or organization could use a hand with, let us know by entering it into yaffle, at www.yaffle.ca, or by calling Bojan Fürst at (709) 864 2120.

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