adventures in the far east — of canada!

The Rooms, and I check out the Basilica firsthand, too!

In culture, st. john's on June 22, 2009 at 1:45 am

Today, after a glorious sleep-in, I went to check out The Rooms, which were pretty cool!

I didn’t go with my brother–not sure how interested he was–but it’s a truly gorgeous, multi-level art gallery and museum. There’s also The Archives, the province’s hoard of historical documents, artifacts, etc that would be a researcher’s dream (if they’re into the area), and requires a separate membership to access. I didn’t go to that, but there was more than enough to see at The Rooms.

I took the time to read most of every display there. Everyone is guilty of typical museum behaviour (myself included): stroll around slowly, glance at stuff, ignore the text, move on, and declare at the end, “I saw it!” But I had time to kill today, so spent that time being absorbed by the incredible history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, I’ll acknowledge again that the province is often the butt of many jokes, and until you come here and see it yourself, you may not understand why it upsets some Newfoundlanders–obviously, it’s because they’ve got some things going for them, and it needs to be experienced to be understood.

The Rooms is one such place–it is so classy and cultured! Even against places like Ontario and Quebec, this province has got a lot of history, being one of the first places permanently settled by the early pioneers, and it was home to an impressive roster of native peoples. The artifacts collected there, from toys to beautiful jewelry, letters and early photographs–there is a real sense of age. There was an impressive depth of exploration as well, beginning with the early explorers and settlers, how they lived, the various Native peoples, the trade and interaction between them (not all bloody!), how the different cultures learned and taught each other, and then later on in more modern days, the province’s critical role during times of war.

Unfortunately, there are strict rules about photography; only the public places and one museum inside were camera-okay. By public places, I mean the building itself, and so I took a lot of that, but I was comforted by the fact that the place is very photogenic! I also went crazy with the one exhibit I could photograph in, their “wildlife of Newfoundland” stuff. What this all means is, although there may be many pictures here, it is but a small portion of what you can see, so you should come visit! 🙂

There was an awesome exhibit I just ached to snap some shots of–boats (I entertained thoughts of it, but there was a security person patrolling…).

Anyway, the boats–I found it way more interesting than it sounds, as it covered what must have been almost a dozen Native groups, how they built their ships, materials they used, the procedure (many of which are still known and, having been preserved, still practiced on occasion by tribesmen), what it was best suited for (inland water? Ocean?), their engineering features (such as their shape, from the bottom to the hull), and so on. There was also a section for the European ships, and accounts from sailors and explorers keen to observe and learn from the indigenous peoples, marveling at certain details or Native craftsmanship. For example, I think it was the Inuit who created the kayak, and the speed and easy maneuverability of such craft remains with us today, only constructed now with light but highly durable fiber glass. Kayaking is a lot of fun, and yes, they are indeed very precise and smooth. In summary, it was uncommonly absorbing with all these long ships all over the place (my only beef: they used the font Papyrus, set in giant. NOOOOooo!).

The wildlife exhibit is just as it sounds: the animals you can find on land and sea in and around Newfoundland and Labrador. Still really well done, and they had a giant squid!! Check out the photo dump below:

*You know how the place is called The Rooms? In those starred pictures, do you see the boxy pictures laid out in a grid, set into the wall? Well, that is what gave the place its name–it is a piece of architecture unique to Newfoundland and Labrador! Years ago (does it still happen, I wonder?), fishing villages had such a communal building called such, where families could go and smoke, salt, and store their fish. By recreating these, The Rooms is acknowledging ties to the past, but the place’s obvious modern style is in reference to the future and moving forward.

**Puffins are cute, but make horrid sounds…

For lunch, I went to their cafe on the top floor. Fantastic views of the city, and the food wasn’t bad, either. Duckworth/Water restaurants are much better, but that’s a high bar to set–but it was good! Not something to write home about, but good.

After The Rooms closed, I decided to see the Basilica of St. John’s for myself, as it was literally just down the street. You readers have already seen much of it from my brother’s pictures, so I’ll just add a few more. Later in the church I was caught in an evening liturgy, so I felt a little intrusive, but I continued taking pics nonetheless.

The place smelled funny, sorta like old library. And old people. Hmm….the combination of the two, actually! Anyway, I’m convinced that my brother missed some things in the Basilica, because I didn’t see it in his photos! For one thing, I’m pretty sure he didn’t go into the Marian Chapel (it wasn’t in use, so I turned on all its lights and took photos), and for another, most of my pics are better, anyway. 😉

Those images will be in the next post’s gridded gallery (one gallery per post). But that concludes my Saturday (well, later I went to MUN–Memorial University, a rather well-respected university–to exercise, but how much do you want to know about that?).

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