Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating the 50th issue of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update newsletter

This month, we celebrate the 50th edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update newsletter. We look at back at where we've come from, provide an overview of the recent Baccalieu Trail Heritage Forum, remember the adventures of a wayward polar bear in Quidi Vidi, and explore how the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program is working to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in Newfoundland and Labrador.

View the newsletter in pdf and other formats

Contributors: Dale Jarvis, Sarah Ingram, Lisa Wilson

The Science You Eat - A Newfoundland root cellar in Ottawa!

If you've followed the ICH blog for any length of time, you'll know that we love root cellars! A few years ago, we partnered on a root cellar research project with the Agricultural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that information has been added to a root cellar collection on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative, over 500 photos, interviews and floor plans, much of it collected by folklorist Crystal Braye and cultural geographer Julie Pomeroy.

Now, some of that info has made its way to Ottawa, where a new exhibit is nearing completion, which will include a life-sized replica of a Newfoundland root cellar.

Suzanne Beauvais is a curator with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and one of the people who has been researching and building the model root cellar. She writes,
Have you ever wondered why storing cucumbers in vinegar keeps them edible for longer? Or whether canned food lasts forever? Our ancestors preserved food using several different methods but did not know that scientific principles underlie food preservation. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, located on the grounds of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, is opening a new exhibition — Food Preservation: The Science You Eat — that answers these questions and much more. The exhibition explores traditional and modern preservation methods, both at home and in industry, and explains the scientific principles behind food preservation using artifacts, videos, interactives, and audio recordings of people sharing their memories. A particularly interesting feature is a replica 1890s root cellar, such as those found in Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador, where visitors will experience the cold, damp, and dark of this food storage structure common to homes of the time. This replica has been made according to the historical information provided through the generous collaboration of the Agricultural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
So, if you are in the Ottawa area this summer, check out the Elliston root cellar. The exhibit opens officially on May 13th.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Burf Ploughman, the Barrel Bucker

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to visit with a wonderful 83-old-man named Burford Ploughman. Knowing of my penchant for oral history, Burf invited me over to record his reflections on the some of the games and antics he and the boys would get up to in the Bay Roberts area in the 1930s and 40s. Originally from Coley's Point, Burford has a sharp memory, and can recall exactly what it was like to grow up in that area. From the early memories of his father keeping animals, to later times of living on Cable Avenue, Burford provided a detailed description of his youth.  In his stories, he really emphasized the fact that the local boys were real pranksters, and luckily, the community was very tolerant of them. One particular activity that they got up to was, on the days approaching Bonfire Night, they would go out and "buck barrels." Bucking* barrels, I soon found out, is the act of taking (stealing) barrels from different families around town, to be used as wood for the bonfire. Burford explained (with help from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English) that bucking isn't like borrowing, as the object will never be returned to the owner, but it wasn't exactly stealing either. 

*Buck v To purloin; to collect or gather surreptitiously. He bucked a barrel last night for the bonfire on November 5th.  Click here to visit the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

Like often the case during oral history interviews, childhood recollections were just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually we went on to discuss the fact that Burf ended up leading a most interesting adult life too. Without any specific ambition to do so, but because of his love for debating local issues, Burf became a talk-show host for a television show called Analysis. During the five years that he was on this show, Burf had the opportunity to discuss major issues with people such as Joey Smallwood--the most important political figure of that era. These interviews led him towards a deeper understanding of the political themes that were resonating throughout the province. His interest in achieving what he considers the best possible life for the people of Newfoundland continued throughout his career, and continues today. In fact, Burford was recently interviewed for Atlantic Business magazine (Mar/Apr 2014 issue) because of a specific vision he has for creating a transportation tunnel between Labrador and the Island. Like a true debater, he presents his arguments using clarity and logic.

Burf Ploughman in his home, April 2014.
What I enjoyed most about this oral history interview is the sense that Burf still marvels at what a grand life he has had. The wonder and joy could easily be read in his face throughout my stay. Our visit was recorded and will eventually be submitted to the Digital Archives Initiative so that it will be publicly accessible. I plan to visit for a second time, to go into more detail about the games that children would play back then, and see if Burf can recall for me some the rules and different ways of playing. It is guaranteed to be an interesting follow up interview.

Did you ever watch the show Analysis? Did you ever buck barrels from your neighbours? I'd love to hear your memories: lisa@heritagefoundation.ca


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Folklore Photo: A Short Film about MUN's Folklore and Language Archive

Host Rob Pitt interviews archivist Peter Narvaez and assistant archivist Philip Hiscock of the Folklore Archive of Memorial University of Newfoundland about the archive and its collections. Created in 1983, this short film was created Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador's Education Television Centre.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Abandoned Sacred - Unmaking and remaking sacred places

Guest post by Dr. Barry Stephenson

Places of worship have life histories: they are conceived, grow and develop, pass through transformations, perhaps even die. My work examines sacred sites that have, for one reason or another, been abandoned by their users. Abandonment does not necessarily bring down the curtain on a place’s religious significance or use. There is a rich history of religious buildings being “converted” from use by one tradition for use by another. Alternatively, religious architecture, built for liturgical purposes, may be “converted” into seemingly secular sites; for example, a church becomes a theatre or a condominium complex. The language of conversion applied to sacred architecture uses a metaphor to evoke the sense of heightened emotion, import, and transformation associated with a religious experience and maps this transformative process on to a material site or natural landscape.

The phrase “abandoned sacred” then refers to processes of unmaking and remaking that take place at sacred buildings and locales. And even when this process moves in the direction from sacred to secular, there may be residues of the sacred, or a mixing of cultural domains, or a change in how the sacred is understood. The premise is that studying sacred sites during moments of crisis and change offers valuable insight into the dynamic relationships between religion and culture.


My work, using a combination of ethnographic, visual, and historical methods, examines this dynamic of abandonment-conversion at a number of sacred sites. Typically, research on sacred places has focused on the symbolic meanings of religious architecture; my work, in contrast, emphasizes moments of change in the use and meanings of sacred places. I’m interested in the eventful nature of architecture, the ways in which spaces are used, especially their connection to ritual and performance. My aim is to build relationships with partners and organizations in Newfoundland and elsewhere that have an interest in the question of church closure and transformation, in order to identify case sites for ethnographically informed study and research. As much of my research is in the area of ritual studies, I am particularly interested in the role and functioning of deconsecration rites, which have received very little study.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Barry Stephenson
Dept. of Religious Studies
Memorial University
Ph: 709-864-8113

Photos: top - Hebron from the cupola of the Moravian Church; 
middle - stone foundations of one of the Moravian buildings, OKaK; 
bottom - the former Double Island Church, Uviluktok, Labrador. 
All photos summer 1995, by Dale Gilbert Jarvis.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Folklore Photo - Engine Rock, Petty Harbour, Newfoundland

This week's folklore photo is of Engine Rock (or Indian Rock, depending upon who you ask), overlooking the town of Petty Harbour.  I've written about this rock before, and I'm still interested in knowing more about any stories associated with it, and I'm especially curious about where the name comes from.

I was in Petty Harbour last week, with some colleagues from the Wooden Boat Museum of NL. We're looking into a possible intangible cultural heritage project there later this year, so stay tuned to this blog for more details!

- Dale

Friday, April 4, 2014

Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area

As of this week, our much anticipated booklet Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area is all done and ready to be released to the community. This printed booklet is the result of a collaboration between the HFNL and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation and involved several weeks of research in that region. Starting last October, I began visiting the Bay Roberts area to find community elders and ask about the legends, tales, and/or beliefs that they encountered growing up. To start the project, we even went into Ascension Collegiate and asked the students to question their parents and grandparents. What the students gathered from their families is a large part of what made this project a success, and our combined oral history digging has been compiled here. In the end, what we've got is a collection of superstitions, cures, remedies, and stories, that helps to celebrate the unique culture and history of this part of the island.  Haunted rocks, visits from the old hag, cures for warts, ghost dogs, sneaky fairies--there's a little bit of everything in this book.

Over the next few weeks I will be planning a booklet launch so that the people who contributed their stories and memories will be able to meet up, tell a ghostly tale or two, and pick up a copy of the book. More details about this event will be posted soon!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday Folklore Photo: Stormy Old St. John's

I feel like this happens every year - we think we are out of the woods with winter and that spring is on our doorstep, when suddenly another big storm hits! I've been fooled a couple times this year already. This trend, unfortunately, is nothing new, and something that St. John's has been dealing with for decades. Newfoundlanders have become very adept at dealing with the harsh weather, and sometimes need to rely on back up plans for transportation when your regular vehicle just couldn't cut it.

This weeks folklore photo is of New Gower Street from 1925 - and as you can see, even this young man riding on his trusty Tauntaun is having a tough time with the winter weather! Tauntauns were used as pack animals, and also served as patrol mounts when the Rebel Alliance's vehicles couldn't deal with the cold weather. I could have certainly used one this past winter!

(Just kidding - only a little April Fool's fun! This photo actually comes from the Tumblr Old Timey St. John's - you should check it out - it's incredible!)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Scoff ‘n’ Scuff Dinner, Dance & Silent Auction

In support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society
Friday April 11th, Benevolent Irish Society 30 Harvey Road
7pm – Tickets $25 at O’Brien’s Music

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society invites you to a dinner, dance & silent auction. Traditional dance caller, Ford Elms, will lead the way, with musicians Rick West, Danny Mills, Tony O’Brien, Allan Ricketts & Fergus Brown-O’Byrne providing the tunes. Enjoy hot beef stew and rolls, and bid on some fabulous silent auction items. Spring may not be here yet, but you can put some spring in your step to coax it along!


Now in its 37th year, the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival takes place in St. John’s on the weekend following the Royal St. John’s Regatta. It is the second oldest continuously running folk festival in Canada. Each year, the NL Folk Festival brings thousands of people together to celebrate the best in traditional and contemporary folk music and dance. The Folk Arts Society promotes folk arts in Newfoundland & Labrador and throughout Canada.


The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society (NLFAS) is a charitable organization located in St. John’s, NL whose mandate is the promotion of the traditional folk arts of the province. Active Since 1966, the organization works towards its goals by presenting educational and cultural events that provide artists with the opportunity to showcase their work and that engage our youth and the general public in the transmission of our intangible cultural heritage. The NLFAS produces the weekly Folk Night at the Ship Pub and several annual events including Young Folk At The Hall, the Holiday Wassail and the popular Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival. The 2010 Folk Festival received the City of St. John’s Event of the Year Tourism Award, and was voted Best Volunteer Opportunity by readers of the Scope.