The Carbonear Heritage Society was formed in 1979 when a group of concerned citizens realized the need to protect and preserve the considerable heritage of the Town of Carbonear. This small rudimentary group was tasked with not only raising the heritage consciousness of the Town, but like any new group in the embryonic stage of its existence, the obvious needs were immediate, and the membership set about to develop a constitution, obtain charitable organization status, continue to build its membership, and begin the fundraising efforts that would enable and enrich many fine heritage projects. Becoming involved with other umbrella organizations within the heritage sector both locally and provincially allowed for inclusion in various pertinent opportunities, including workshops and networking, all of which would assist with the growth of the fledgling organization.
"Home" for the Carbonear Heritage Society is the Old Carbonear Post Office on the corner of Musgrave and Water Street, a landmark building that also houses a wealth of information pertaining to Carbonear's history along with the "Going Foreign" Exhibit and the new Tryphoena Nicholl Exhibit which will be opening in early 2012.
The Carbonear Heritage Society was awarded the prestigious provincial Southcott Award in 1988. This award acknowledged the Society's dedication to improving the quality of built heritage through the restoration of the Railway Station, and gave the Carbonear Heritage Society the distinction of being the first group outside the city of St. John's to receive this award.
Noted for their hard work and commitment to the preservation of the Town's history and heritage, the Carbonear Heritage Society have been gratified to receive a number of awards along with preparing an impressive selection of exhibits.
June 23, 1987, less than ten years after the Soceity's inception, and through their efforts to save the building, the Carbonear Railway Station was designated a Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of NL. On September 23, 2000, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the building as the Representative Railway Station for Newfoundland.
Many interesting exhibits have been projects of the Carbonear Heritage Society, including:
- Publishing the Willoughby Story - early settlement in Carbonear
- Assisted with the development of The Price of Fish exhibit
- Assisted with the development of the Harbour Rock Hillinterpretative site and History Boards
The following exhibits were hosted and/or presented by the Carbonear Heritage Society:
1981 - A Travelling Exhibit of Jewellry and Clothes
1988, May - Illustrations of Carbonear's Maritime Past
1989 - Rorke Exhibit - exhibition of materials and documents from the fish mercantile business of John Rorke and Sons
1989 - The Box that Rolls - coopers and cooperage in Carbonear
1990, February - Slates and Primers -Early Carbonear Schools & School Records
1990, Summer - Saltfish and Labrador Fishery Exhibit
1991,May - Price of Fish: This was a collaborative partnership with the Museum Association of Newfoundland and Labrador; the award winning Exhibit travelled throughout North America and the Price of Fish Committee, which included the Carbonear Heritage Society, received the D.W. Prowse Award.
1991, Summer - Carbonear Volunteer Fire Brigade Exhibit - a summer student project on the history of the brigade.
1992 - Portion of the Price of Fish Exhibit was permanently displayed together with a collection of railway memorabilia including pictures of the station agents.
1996-97 - The d'Iberville Legacy - a reprise of the Carbonear Island Exhibit with emphasis upon the defense of the Island in the Anglo-French Wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
1999 - Going Foreign Exhibit - This permanent exhibit concerning the mariners and their sailing ships carrying the dried salt fish to foreign ports in the period prior to and including the First World War.
2011 - Summer - Traces of the Past - A fascinating exhibit of almost 400 years of the history of Carbonear Island including the Archaeology Exploration and Survey work of 2010 complete with artifacts.
The Carbonear Heritage Society has also prepared two exhibits which are featured on the Virtual Museum of Canada:
1) Prepared by Edwina Suley: 2002 - A Mother's War - The history of the Hawker family whose two sons served in World War I.
2) Prepared by Ron Howell: The History of the 589 Carbonear Air Cadet Squadron which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004.
The Carbonear Heritage Society consistently hire students during the summer for jobs that give students excellent opportunities to gain work experience in frontline tourism, research, artifact conservation and a wide variety of other interesting employment connected to the heritage sector.
Visit the museums and enjoy the work of the Carbonear Heritage Society or go online and visit the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Individuals may also donate items of historical interest to the Carbonear Heritage Society for display and preservation.