For generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians whose lives depended on the water, a boat was a veritable vessel – to security, to safety, and to survival. Being resourceful, resilient people, our forebearers fashioned their floating survival kits from the materials their unique environments provided. In the process, they became architects of not only the magnificent structures they built, but of an entire legacy – one whose existence was all but extinguished before 1997.
That was the year The Winterton Boat Building and Community Museum was started under the direction of the Town of Winterton’s Heritage Advisory Board. Recognizing the immense importance of wooden boat building in the construction of our cultural landscape, the organization sought to preserve the precious skills, knowledge and tools that today provide a pristine portrait of our collective past.
Expanding to become the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador (WBMNL) in 2008, the organization made its headquarters in Winterton, one of the many communities with a rich history of wooden boat building. It is here, through ongoing exhibits and workshops with descendants of wooden boat building masters, that a unique local legacy lives on – one that, like its authors, has persevered, despite the odds.
Exhibits & Artifacts
Evolving Traditions: People, Place and Wooden Boats
Meet and hear from some of the people who build boats using skills and knowledge passed down through the generations. Explore how tradition and innovation shaped the small inshore fishing boats of Newfoundland and Labrador. This exhibit is a representation of Newfoundland and Labrador’s diverse boatbuilding heritage and provides a window into the character of the people and the places they belong.
They Came for the Fish and Stayed for the Stages
This exhibit tells the story of Newfoundland and Labrador’s salt cod fishery through a look at the places and spaces that supported this way of life across the Province. This exhibit describes how stages and flakes were used to process salt cod and includes photos and genealogical information that traces the history of fishing stages in Winterton back to the early twentieth century.
Boat Building Room
In our Boat Building Room visitors will learn how boat builders designed and constructed their wooden vessels. Our display of traditional tools found alongside a boat under construction demonstrates the various stages of boat construction and the skill required to complete the task. Visitors can test their own skills by rolling oakum and using a caulking iron and mallet to fill the seams between planks, a traditional method used by Newfoundland and Labrador boat builders.
In our Boat Shed, the smell of fresh wood shavings fills the air. Watch as traditional and contemporary boat building methods are used to craft the small wooden boats of Newfoundland. Visitors have the opportunity to talk with our resident boat builder and interpretive staff as they work.
Life in a Fishing Community
The second floor of the museum showcases life in a fishing community. Here you will learn the stories of what it was like to grow up, live and work in one of Newfoundland’s fishing communities. Displays focus on agriculture, coopering, hunting, school life, and domestic life in an outport community.
Against the backdrop of the historic town of Trinity, exhibits located at the Methodist School House highlight the local shipbuilding history and tell the stories of local boat builders and fishermen. Offered in partnership with the Trinity Historical Society.
Experience the story of Newfoundland and Labrador’s wooden boats with a local twist. Visit St. Peter’s Parish Hall for exhibits and boat building demonstrations that showcase Twillingate’s rich wooden boat heritage. Offered in partnership with Isles Wooden Boat Builders Museum.