Furniture in Public Collections in Canada / La Collection Nationale de Mobilier - Newfoundland Museum

Furniture in Public Collections in Canada / La Collection Nationale de Mobilier

Newfoundland Museum

Gerald L. Pocius
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Walter Peddle
Education Officer for the Newfoundland Museum

1 The Newfoundland Museum started actively collecting furniture in 1969, initially concentrating on British-made items. A few local examples were also acquired. It has been only since 1978, however, that the museum has acquired examples of outport furniture in large numbers, making the acquisition of locally-made artifacts a collections priority.

2 The museum's furniture collection consists of approximately 400 pieces, the majority locally-made artifacts and the remainder pre-Victorian pieces of British, American, or mainland Canadian manufacture. The museum does have a small number of mass-produced pieces, primarily late nineteenth-century, from outside the province, but there are few examples of the products of St. John's craftsmen and factories from the same period. The scope and dynamics of this local industry have yet to be researched.

3 Two historic sites owned by the province have spurred the collection of furniture by the museum. Commissariat House, located in St. John's and opened to the public in 1977, was the home of a local government official in the early nineteenth century. This structure was restored to the 1830 period and furniture pieces of British origin were acquired to furnish it. The acquisition of the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse required the collection of locally-made items from the Bonavista area of the 1870 period to which the structure was restored. Some of the museum's furniture collection is on display at these two sites and some at the museum itself in St. John's. The remainder is in storage.

4 Local outport furniture in the museum's collection has been acquired mainly on the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas, and although an effort is being made to secure pieces from other areas of the province, this is becoming difficult with the increasing scarcity of these locally-fashioned artifacts.

5 It should be noted that some of the smaller museums in the province have examples of local outport furniture in their collections, most notably the Fishermen's Museum at Hibbs Cove, Twillingate Museum, Durrell Museum, and Wesleyville Museum. The Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, National Museum of Man, in Ottawa also has a collection of approximately twenty pieces of Newfoundland outport furniture.

Gerald L. Pocius and Walter Peddle