Unimpressed with The Rooms … or the view

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I’m visiting St. John’s after being away for a good forty or so years.

When I watched my first episode of “Republic of Doyle” with its uncomplicated charm and great location shots I was struck by the sight of a big boxy looking object dwarfing the St. John’s Basilica. My first reaction (after “What in god’s name is that thing?") was to shake my head and feel bad for the church for the first time in my life.

Then I find out that “The Rooms” is a museum?

OK, I expect change. While I’ve been off traipsing around on “The Mainland” all these years life has gone on.

But here’s the rub — there’s no sense of history there, period.

It’s a big boxy building with huge cold open spaces and some “rooms” with a few old things haphazardly thrown together looking pretty sad and out of place.

Why are the kayaks strung upside down or tucked away in the ceiling? Maybe they can’t be touched like they could down at the Gosling but now they aren’t even close enough to get a sense of what they’re made of.

What’s with the frustrating electronic push this push that method of finding out about the few objects on display that actually hold some interest?

Don’t we still have anyone left that can write and perhaps use an era appropriate way of describing objects?

Couldn’t a nice historic old building have been upgraded to house the collection?

I’m no architect but it looks like the majority of the new structure isn’t even usable as display area.

Two more whines and then I’ll leave you alone — The smell of various foods that close to the exhibit rooms is a turn-off. Food should not be up there – yuck! And no surprises in the gift shop. A few tired old books likely filled with half truths about the historic oldest colony and just past the toy “stuffed lobsters” which have turned me off that delicacy forever, some ugly Republic of Doyle merchandise that like most everything else in the shop has absolutely nothing to do with a museum and is likely making Jake Doyle squirm with embarrassment.

Speaking of totally unrelated — “Hey Allan Hawco, are you anything to Tony Hawco who I went to school with at Holy Cross around 1965?”

Mike Phelan

Vancouver, B.C.

Organizations: Holy Cross

Geographic location: Republic of Doyle

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Recent comments

  • mainlander
    August 05, 2013 - 10:40

    The ignorance is astounding. Perhaps if you took the time for a guided tour of the exhibits, you'd have a clue about why things were put where they were & why TECHNOLOGY was used. I thought the exhibits were a fantastic reflection of our history. And the tour guide knew her stuff. Instead of dumping on what was in the exhibits or gift shops, perhaps enlighten us on what SHOULD be there according to your obvious expertise and education in Museum Studies & Newfoundland History. What makes a good museum, b'yes? I'd love to know what The Rooms needs to do to get up to your very high standards. Oh, and let's put the kayaks down at floor level so some hooligans can not only touch them, but destroy them as well. SMH.

  • John in Corner Brook
    August 02, 2013 - 22:48

    Mr. Phelan's letter is almost too foolish to merit comment, but I beg to differ with both him and David. The Rooms is a fantastic, well-thought out architectural gem and the exhibits are very commendable. It is a place that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be proud of. I was also familiar with the old museum and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was as good as it could be for that time and place. I have been to museums and galleries in Europe, the US and elsewhere in Canada including the Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery. They are wonderful places and our Rooms can hold its own among them all. I will reserve my comments as to what I think of Mr. Phelan and Mike. Their own comments adequately reveal how boorish they are.

    • david
      August 05, 2013 - 09:52

      I have been to many museums, too...quite sober.

  • david
    August 02, 2013 - 08:57

    The Rooms was a complete repudiation of Newfoundland. While publicly stating the exact opposite with weasel words and platitudes of the "stainless steel and glass" whores and their minions, it was meant to expunge any memories of the vernacular architecture, the societal struggles, and the organic life of the city its in. A gharish, bloated piece of space junk that simply fell from the sky, claimed its pedestal, and immediately trivialized the City. They did a fine job.