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Holyrood Heritage Society thrilled with public response to museum

Linda Bourgeois-Fraser is the president of Holyrood Heritage Society Inc.
Linda Bourgeois-Fraser is the president of Holyrood Heritage Society Inc. - Andrew Robinson
HOLYROOD, N.L. —

It had to come together quickly, but the Holyrood Heritage Society managed to realize a big dream this summer.

An antique tobogan that's part of a room dedicated to children's toys from days gone by.
An antique tobogan that's part of a room dedicated to children's toys from days gone by.
This room at the Holyrood Heritage Society's Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop takes a step back in time.
This room at the Holyrood Heritage Society's Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop takes a step back in time.

At the June 11 regular meeting, town council members unanimously agreed to sign off on a four-month lease for the former Port O' Call building at 429 Conception Bay Highway so the society would have a place to display its many artifacts during Come Home Year celebrations. The 10-day celebration went from July 12-21, giving the group's members one month to be ready for the big event.

"It was a pretty tight schedule," said Linda Bourgeois-Fraser, president of the society, which was formed in 2003 and incorporated a year later.
For the most recent Winter Carnival, the society set up a display at the Star of the Sea building. It was well-received, according to Bourgeois-Fraser. But the move into the former Port O' Call building represented a considerably larger undertaking.

The building has more than a dozen rooms, offering ample space for the group to share its collection of artifacts going back to the 1800s.

The space is now open as a museum, art gallery and gift shop and will remain open until Oct. 15. The early response has been very positive, according to the society's president.

This contains the first drops from the Holyrood oil refinery.
This contains the first drops from the Holyrood oil refinery.

"I've been involved in a lot of things in this area, and it's been so well received," said Bourgeois-Fraser, who is optimistic this trial run will pave the way for a permanent site. "We're really proud of it, and we're proud of the residents themselves too for coming forward."

The society has not been able to fully track the number of visitors so far. They eventually started handing out admission tickets to those entering the space (it's free to visit) and had passed out almost 500 as of late July.

Bourgeois-Fraser estimates the full total of visitors would be double that.

The crosses included in this display recognizing local contributions to the World Wars were created by Avondale visual artist Rosemary Byrne.
The crosses included in this display recognizing local contributions to the World Wars were created by Avondale visual artist Rosemary Byrne.

"When there's a crowd here and then there's people trying to get through the door, people leave without getting a ticket because we can't get there ourselves," she said.

Residents have come through with artifacts to contribute, with the nature of some donations contingent on whether the society can find a permanent home.

Prior to the museum's opening this summer, various members of the society were responsible for storing the artifacts in their own homes. They're still receiving new items on a regular basis.

"Every day there's somebody bringing us something," said Bourgeois-Fraser.

The Holyrood Heritage Society's Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop is located in the former Port O' Call building on the Conception Bay Highway.
The Holyrood Heritage Society's Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop is located in the former Port O' Call building on the Conception Bay Highway.

The society is also fielding new inquiries about joining the group as a direct result of the museum's opening. They currently has 10 members, but Bourgeois-Fraser says she's heard from at least eight more people interested in getting involved.

The museum's many rooms are themed based on topics (fishery, music, childhood, war, religion) and noteworthy Holyrood landmarks, including the former Bennett's store and the local oil refinery.

"When people understand where they came from, it makes a difference in their lives," the society's president said.

The art gallery features work by local artists like Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara and Rosemary Byrne.

Right now, the site is open six days a week — it's closed on Mondays.

editor@cbncompass.ca


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