Museum

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Check out the third Public Archaeology Twitter Conference at #PATC3. Below is a transcript of my contribution.

Public Archaeology Twitter Conference #PATC3

Title

Garden Hill, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aircraft Wreckage, Site Use, and Local Museums

by Dr. Lisa M. Daly, PhD

#PATC3 #PATC #aviation #archaeology

Photo credits: top left: Barnes et al. 1944; bottom left: Lisa M. Daly; right: Shannon K. Green

Slide 2 – Aviation History in Newfoundland and Labrador

Many NL communities have stories of aircraft overhead, famous aviators, missing flights, and plane crashes. Some communities were created or shaped by aviation and the building of aerodromes in the Second World War #PATC3

Map from Toporama 2019

Slide 3 – The Crash of USAAF 42-107427

USAAF C-54A 42-107427 crashed on the Port-au-Port Peninsula en route to Harmon Field, when sloppy weather blew it off course. 9 or 18 crew died on site, 3 later in hospital. Survivors walked to a nearby town where locals helped them. #PATC3 https://bit.ly/2Sck2ui


Slide 4 – Documentary & Archaeological Record

The site has been disturbed, the archaeological record is fragmented. The accident report is available & is a mix of technical language and witness statements. One newspaper article from 1944 rightfully worried about damage if a highway is built nearby #PATC3

Slide 5 – Public Presentation

At a presentation at the Stephenville #museum, I shared the info I had (arch and report), while the community shared related stories. The @western_star carried an article “archaeologist researching […] through local responders” #PATC3

Stephenville Regional Museum of History and Art. Photo by Lisa M. Daly

Slide 6 – Public Engagement

This engagement allowed me to hear the story of the museum’s propeller. It was recovered from the wreck and the tip removed to make spinning wheel spindle. It stayed in the craftman’s yard until the museum opened and a resident offered to collect it #PATC3

Photo by Lisa M. Daly

Slide 7 – Personal Touches

Witness statements tell how the crash was experienced “there was no confusion among the passengers” “I could hear the trees cracking” “the plane made a jerk like it hit an air pocket or something” “whether I walked through or was thrown though, I don’t know” #PATC3

Slide 8 – Map vs. Aerial Photo

Hand-drawn maps show what the author considered important to relate but do not capture the chaos and confusion seen in aerial site photos that show the actual wreckage. Personal, but at the same time, controlled. #PATC3

Slide 9 – Site Use

Since the crash, besides the propeller, the site was rarely visited. With the construction of a nearby road, the aircraft material has been mostly removed, a sign directs people to the site, a bench, campfires and decoratively arranged ceramics show site use #PATC3

Photo by Shannon K. Green

Slide 9 – Multidisciplinary

Combining all these elements gives a more complete story and makes it easier for people to engage and relate to the story, especially family and community members. Information is more accessible, less sterile, more personal. #PATC3

Slide 10 – Bias

This approach helps address bias, even your own. Sharing many elements of the story encourages others to share, and all the information can be critically assessed. Being open to new information encourages others to contribute, especially the public #PATC3

Slide 12 – Newfoundlanders as Storytellers

Newfoundlanders & Labradoreans love to hear & tell stories. Combining the archaeological, documentary, & folkloric elements to create the story of the site makes information accessible to interested parties & encourages others to share their part of the story #PATC3

Site Specific References

Barnes, George E., Barnie B. McEntire, and Robert H. Augustinus

1944 U.S. Army Forces Report of Aircraft Accident: Vicinity Cape St. George, Newfoundland. War Department: Harmon Field, Newfoundland.

Daly, L.M.

2015 Aviation Archaeology of World War II Gander: An Examination of Military and Civilian Life at the Newfoundland Airport. Doctoral thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland: Newfoundland.

Daly, L. and S. Green

2014 Garden Hill: The Crash of a USAAF C-54. Provincial Archaeology Office 2013 Archaeology Review, 12: 22-24.

Gale, Frank

1994 Association Wants 1944 Crash Site Preserved. The Western Star, 21 September 1994, p. 3.

Hurley, Corey

2013 Archaeologist Researching Crash Hill Through Local Responders. The Western Star, 09 August 2013 (online).

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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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