Museum

My posts have gotten pretty irregular, and they are going to stay that way for a little while. I’m trying to focus on getting more detailed research done and preparing for conferences and the like. I do need to learn to build a better balance between blog posts and in-depth research (such as shorter, less detailed posts) but I haven’t found that balance yet. I’ll get there.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Conception Bay Museum for the launch of the poetry book Flightpaths: The Lost Journals of Amelia Earhart by Heidi Greco. I snuggled in with the pirate Peter Easton and enjoyed an imagining through journal entries and poetry of Amelia Earhart’s last days.

 

Peter Easton, a well-known pirate who often used Harbour Grace as his base. Photo by author.

Greco fell in love with Earhart’s story, and has researched her life and the stories around her disappearance. She uses this information to follow what might have been Earhart’s thoughts as she and Fred Noonan find themselves crashed on a small sandbar, Noonan with severe injuries, and Earhart with a severely injured ankle. Greco allows Earhart to expresses herself with short journal entries, poems, and dreams, exploring her life from the first plane she ever spied, to her marriage to George Putnam, to her childhood and relationship with her sister, to her solo flight from Newfoundland, to her friendships with Katherine Hepburn and Eleanor Roosevelt. Through dreams the wanderings of the mind, Greco explores some of the theories as to what happened to Earhart as she attempted to fly around the equator. She looks at Earhart finding herself in a Japanese prison camp, in a witness relocation scenario, in an institution, and simply as an excuse for the United States to explore the Pacific Islands. Some of the poems and journal entries are so powerful that they will bring a tear to your eye and cause you to mourn the loss of Earhart.

 

Heidi Greco reading from Flightpaths at the Conception Bay Museum. The camera insisted on focusing on the sunflower, brought by Greco as a reminder of Earhart’s Kansas. Photo by author.

What made Greco’s launch even more powerful was that she choose to launch it in Harbour Grace on the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s solo trans-Atlantic flight. Most fitting, she read the poem “Grace” about that flight which even mentions “With a gifted thermos of homemade soup tucked beneath my arm,/ I ducked into the cockpit, smiling and waving”, a wonderful touch that I feel shows Newfoundland hospitality at its finest.

Artifacts of aviation in Harbour Grace, including the log from the Harbour Grace Airfield. Photo by author.

After the reading, it was wonderful to explore the museum. I have been there before, and will be there again. The museum showcases so many important parts of the area’s history, not just Earhart but the Harbour Grace airfield and Harbor Grace’s role in the Trans-Atlantic Air Race, the Kyle and its search for Old Glory. With so much history beyond aviation, the museum looks at the pirates in the area, the fishery, government, and life in Harbour Grace.

Outside the Conception Bay Museum in Harbour Grace. Photo by author.

While at the book launch, I did have the oppotunity to meet many wonderful people from the area whom I only knew through facebook. First, the ladies of The Moose Curry Experience who post great recipes and have helped me with in the field identification with a tweet or two. I was also talking to Florence Button who runs the museums in Carbonear. I will admit I haven’t been into the Railway Station Museum, the Rorke Store or the Post Office Museum, but will make a point of visiting them the next time I am out in Carbonear (which is pretty regularly). Finally, I made arrangements with the wonderful folks at the Conception Bay Museum to let me check out some of their historic documents to get the research ball rolling on a history of Harbour Grace (one that might compliment Challenge of the Atlantic which is now out of print).

A picture of the Harbour Grace Airfield which was taken on a much sunnier day. Photo by author.

Overall, it was a great day, and I enjoyed spending my evening with a glass of whiskey and a wonderful book of poetry.

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Recently I had an opportunity to visit Florida. While I researched and found a number of military and aviation museums around the state, I did not have the opportunity to visit many of them. In fact, I only visited the one museum, the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, Florida.

Entrance to the Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo, Florida. Photo by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

This museum did not have a concentrated look at one area of history or one branch of the armed forces, but rather had a greater focus on looking at many of the armed conflicts the United States has been involved in since the First World War. Many part of this museum were wonderfully immersive, from wandering through the trenches of the First World War, to standing around models of the ships attacked at Pearl Harbour with a projection of planes flying on the day of the attack, to resisting the urge to swat at mosquitos while walking through a Vietnam swamp. The displays are wonderfully done, and done with a passion that is not always seen in museum setups.

First World War trench recreation, complete with soldiers and attacking aircraft. Photos by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

As a Canadian, the strong American patriotism is something a little foreign, but I believe that seeing it in action in this museum has given me a better understanding of how I can shape my own work to better suit how many Americans feel the USAAF should be memorialized. In fact, the monuments that I saw while travelling around Florida gave a different perspective when compared to the small war memorials that can be found in every community in Newfoundland. I found many of the monuments in Florida were much grander, and many of them were also much newer than those erected after the First World War here.

Monument in Largo Central Park. Photo by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

From a research perspective, I very much enjoyed the exhibits that showed the kit bags used by Second World War airmen. In particular, the exhibit featured the uniform and kit of a B-24 Tuskegee airman. Such  exhibits help me a great deal, especially when thinking of site visits where personal effects and parts of kits have been found. I will be sure to use the photographs I took for future reference.

A very detailed exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen, and a visualisation of much of the equipment found on a B-24. Photos by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

As for the history enthusiast in me, I very much enjoyed the room featuring uniforms from across the Armed Forces and across the years. I showed the evolution of many of the uniforms, and the changing roles of women within the Armed Forces. As well, as someone who has watched M*A*S*H quite a bit, their detailed section of the Korean War was nice to see. It is often a conflict neglected in military museums, but this museum very much showcased it, and I learned that Rosie’s Bar was based on an actual place (to make my geeking out over M*A*S*H complete, I found a candy store that sold Grape Nehis!).

Rose’s Bar, which became Rosie’s Bar and was heavily featured in M*A*S*H. I had no idea it was based on an actual bar. Photo by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

There are other activities that are available for additional fees, such as simulators and the opportunity to ride in a WWII M8 Reconnaissance Vehicle. But before you try to visit, check the website. Sadly, I would like to recommend this museum to anyone in the Largo/Clearwater Region, but the museum’s main benefactor recently passed away, and although this is a world-class museum (in my opinion) it is not sustainable if running solely on admissions. Therefore, the museum is currently in the process of closing. I am grateful for the opportunity to have visited the Armed Forces Museum in Largo, and while I did not get to any of the better known facilities, am happy I visited this one before it closed.

Outside the museum. Photos by Shannon K. Green and Lisa M. Daly, 2016

If you are in the St. Petersburg region, I would highly recommend visiting The Hangar restaurant. It overlooks Albert Whitted Airport, a small, active airport. While having a delicious burger, I had the opportunity to watch what I can only assume was a new pilot practicing takeoff and landing. It was a wonderful experience, and made for a great afternoon (plus the food, beer and service were wonderful!). If I get to go back again, I will see about contacting the Albert Whitted Airport Preservation Society about a tour.

Enjoying at afternoon of airplane, good food and beer. Photos by Lisa M. Daly, 2016

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