Tuesday, 29 July 2014

THESIS REFLECTION: TRAINS VS. SHIPS...

BY: ROBIN NELSON

There are some interesting museums in New Brunswick. This post is about some of the museums that I am discovering in the province that deal with the railroad, raising certain question about the museums we open and why.

NB seems to have a number of railway museums. There are two dealing primarily with the railway: the New Brunswick Railway Museum and the Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature.

Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature
Le Musée - Du Réel au Miniature
Other museums that deal with the railway and advertise the objects on display with this focus include:
TDC Model
TDC Model
Resurgo Place in Moncton has been renovated to add the Transportation Discovery centre (TDC). The front of the renovated building was designed to look like the front of a locomotive. The Chipman Museum deals with the history of the community and is housed in an old railway caboose. The Agriculture Museum of New Brunswick and the Antique Automobile Museum have a caboose and locomotive on display respectively.

There are a number railway sites that have become visitor information centers (VIC):

Hampton Station
Hampton Station
The Hampton Station was the area’s first railway station and now houses the VIC, a gift shop, and railway artifacts from the Kings County Museum.

 Edmundston C.P.R Railway Station
Personal photo of the exhibition that I discovered at the Edmundston C.P.R Railway Station (a VIC)
The McAdam Station is open for guided tours from June-October and serves as a VIC. Wikipedia seems to think it includes a museum as well. This discrepancy raises the question, at what point does a “site” or VIC become a museum? For instance, why is the Bristol CPR Station only a railway site?

The Bristol CPR Station
The Bristol CPR Station
For those who do not know, the timber trade was huge in the development of NB because the province has a lot of wood and access to rivers. Further, there were wooden shipbuilding sites along the coast and rivers but, with the end of the Crimean War and the rise of steam-driven iron-hulled ships, the shipbuilding industry crashed in the late 19th century. Transportation industries, including shipbuilding and the railroad, are very important to the history and development of the province.

While you can learn about the lumber trade at the Kedgwick Forestry Museum or the Woodmen’s Museum, where is the museum devoted to shipbuilding?

Why are there so many railway museums, “sites,” and museums advertising that they deal with the railway? The shipbuilding industry is at least as important to the province’s development. Do people simply find trains more interesting then ships? Or, as the province is involved in funding and advertising, is this a deliberate decision?

Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin, which display artifacts related to the CN
Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin, which display artifacts related to the CN
The simple explanation for more (or better advertised?) railway sites than shipbuilding ones is that ships were built and then floated away. However, the Old Train Station Tourist Centre in Saint-Quentin is a replica of the old train station built in 1920 and destroyed in the fall of 1983. Railway sites that burnt down have been rebuilt and are advertised by the province.

The New Brunswick Railway Heritage Association
For those clicking on my links, you may have noticed this provincially funded site: http://www.nbrailways.ca/index.html, which provides a guide to the museums and sites significant to the railway in the province. No such guide exists for shipbuilding sites (that I’ve found) or other industry in the province. Is this a deliberate cultural policy decision? How is what is funded, preserved, and built influenced by wider policy decisions? Are there large living groups of people with an interest in the railroad who are responsible for the large number of railway heritage sites? In this case, does the province guide decisions regarding heritage or are decisions made at the community level and then supported by government?

3 comments:

  1. Two replies disappeared! One thought though: it could be a coincidence; since ship and boatbuilding in the maritimes began to fade rapidly in the late 19th century, it could be that by the time heritage preservation came into vogue, there was little left, whereas NB and NS enjoyed comprehensive railway service until the 1980's, so the built heritage was there to be saved.

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  2. Alex: weird, my posts are erasing too.

    Robin: Good question you pose about the lack of museums representing the role of shipbuilding in NB. My only thought would be: maybe it is because there are no major lasting physical shipyard structures left as there are train stations and trains? Convenience?

    If you haven't already checked out the Boultenhouse in Sackville NB, I remember they had quite the mini shipyard model set up: http://heritage.tantramar.com/BH-Exhibits.html

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  3. Alex and Kristen, I've had that happen too - and it's a huge pain! I've found that if I hit "preview" before I post my comment it doesn't disappear!
    Hopefully that'll work for you guys too :)

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