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REF NO.: 153

SUBJECT: Memorial’s Centre for Newfoundland Studies celebrates 40th anniversary

DATE: Jan. 16

The primary research centre devoted entirely to Newfoundland and Labrador is marking four decades of preserving this province’s past.

Memorial University’s Centre for Newfoundland Studies (CNS), which is housed in the Queen Elizabeth II Library (QE II) on the St. John’s campus, is home to an amazing 75,000 volumes and holds the largest collection of Newfoundland material in the world.

It’s the essential starting-point for authors and historians, and students and community researchers, who may be investigating anything about this province.

“The centre has breadth and depth. It holds the latest magazines and government reports,” said Joan Ritcey, head of the CNS. “It holds light material such as joke books and novels as well as treatises, exhaustive research on many topics, the best literature the country has produced and reference tools such the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, phonebooks and the census.”

Hundreds of patrons, including faculty, staff, students, members of the community and out-of-province visitors, use the centre every month.

Founded by Agnes O’Dea (1911-1993), the CNShas literally grown from about 40 books on a few small shelves in a tiny room to its current facility. The university administration tasked Ms. O’Dea with the job of creating a regional library collection on Newfoundland which, in 1965, became the CNS.

Today, the centre’s extensive collection includes books, periodicals, microfilm, maps, pamphlets and electronic materials covering a huge range of topics including literary works, histories and folklore collections, as well as documents on applied sciences, the fishery, mining, pulp and paper and oil and gas.

There are file folders packed with newspaper clippings on every community in the province, old school yearbooks as well as more contemporary items such as yesterday’s newspaper and politicians’ speeches. The CNSattempts to collect everything about this province. It purchases newly-published material from bookstores as well as out-of-print and rare items from the antiquarian market.

“The CNS is a treasure trove of historically-important material,” said Ms. Ritcey. “It’s a delight for those interested in a wide range of out-of-print material on Newfoundland and Labrador and an essential source for the researcher.”

Some of the centre’s prized possessions include:

  • The only copy in Canada – and one of only about 17 or 18 copies in the world – of Robert Hayman’s 1628 book Quodlibets, which is a call for English men and women to colonize Newfoundland.

  • The actual map that William Cormack used to trek across Newfoundland in 1822.

  • This province’s only complete copy of Stonepics, a set of 165 CDs giving the personal and family names and dates from tens of thousands of gravestones across the province.

The oldest item in the CNS is the John Guy news-sheet, an original, hand-written document from Jan. 29, 1611, which refers to the first people living at Cupids, the site now being excavated by archaeologists.

The CNS’s reputation as this province primary research centre wouldn’t be complete without its close relationship with the QE II’s Archives and Manuscripts Division, formerly known as the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives and now its own entity. Patrons often visit both facilities to complete their research.

The division’s holdings include several thousand linear metres of processed material such as war-time letters; vintage speeches from some of this province’s pioneering politicians; scripts from the ground-breaking comedy troupe CODCO; and Joseph Smallwood’s personal copy of the Terms of Union.

“We still complement the holdings of the CNSand we continue to work with them very closely,” said head archivist Bert Riggs. “But we have grown tremendously over the years to become our own entity. We are a collection of primary resource material for students and faculty at Memorial.”

The division is also open to the general public who may be interested in genealogy work or community research.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the CNS, a wine and cheese reception will be held Friday, Jan., 20, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the centre, which is located on the third floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

Members of the media are invited to attend the event.

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For further information, please contact Jeff Green, communications co-ordinator (Marketing and Communications), Memorial University, at 737-2142 or


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