Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bats Are Our Friends

For many years I've wanted to visit the Mary March Museum and the Logger's Life Museum in Grand Falls. Given that Grand Falls was once a mill town (see my earlier post), I was rather curious about the way in which this history was represented in a museum -- after all, the end product of my research will be an installation at the Corner Brook Museum & Archives.

There are many lessons I could have learned from this excursion, but in the end the take-home message was that bats are our friends. Confused?

My mother and I set out early this morning and motored along the highway to Grand Falls. Once there, we visited the Mary March Museum first for the bargain basement price of $2.50 each. I'll be honest, I didn't have high hopes -- all I could think was, if you get what you pay for... You see where I'm going with this. But I'm always happy to be proven wrong. There was a lovely art installation called 25 for 25. It featured important works of art by Newfoundland artists that have been collected by the Provincial Art Bank Program over the past 25 years. I was thrilled to see a Jerry Evans work (Spirit Wind) and a David Blackwood print depicting an encounter with an iceberg. The gallery itself was bright and modern in feel. I was impressed.

The museum on the other hand felt a little dated. I suppose I can't be too critical here. When I asked a staff member, she explained that the museum had been around since the 1970s, but was privately run. Then it closed for a few years before coming under the provincial museums. I thought she said that occurred in the 1990s, but I wondered if it wasn't more recent (with the establishment of The Rooms). I'll have to look into that at a later date.

The winding exhibit began with the geological formation of Newfoundland and the terrain of central specifically. Then it led into a display on the Maritime Archaic Indians, the so-called Recent Indians, the Beothuk, and Mi'kmaq, followed by a focus on Demasduit. Next were panels on settlers, the fishery, and the pulp and paper mill, followed by a few items related to the Queen. It was clear that the panels needed an update. First, there was a whole lot of text in most cases, there were no interactive parts of any exhibits, and they were employing the obsolete Micmac instead of Mi'kmaq. Two of these three observations are relevant to my current project. For my purposes, the display was disappointing, since there was very little about the town's mill. I did, however, enjoy the display on the paper-making process.

Next, we headed to the Logger's Life Museum. This was not what we were expecting at all. Located next to Beothuk Park, the Logger's Life Museum consists of a number of log structures along a walking trail that attempt to recreate life in a logging camp. Frankly, we weren't expecting (or prepared for) an outdoor trek. We were almost carried away by the mosquitoes.

It was, nevertheless, an educational experience. It helped to round out the picture of the impact of a pulp and paper mill, which extended to the forests where timber was harvested. Men worked and lived in dreadful conditions in the camps. And based on our experience today, I'm guessing that the mosquitoes drove them nuts too. On one of the interpretive panels we read that the loggers greatly appreciated bats, which would come out at night and eat mosquitoes. So, as we smacked the mosquitoes away from each other and resisted the urge to scratch our bites, we decided that bats are our friends too.

Actually, Logger's Life Museum should probably consider selling t-shirts... I got carried away at the Logger's Life Museum (with appropriate picture of a mosquito, etc)... I survived a Logger's Life... Bats are our friends -- lessons learned at the Logger's Life...

But I digress...

One of my favourite finds was a grader from the 1930s that was used while building roads. Built by Caterpillar. Incredible.

We then headed to Badger for lunch and returned to Corner Brook. A little worse for wear, but having learned much about the paper mill industry in the province and with a few ideas for the exhibit.

Many thanks to Yuri for the tip about using malt vinegar on mosquito bites -- worked like a charm.