PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release
June 1, 2022
HARBOUR GRACE, NL – The Conception Bay Museum’s well-known Aviation Room has gotten a facelift with funding from Newfoundland & Labrador’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation.
The revamped Aviation Room reopened for a private viewing on Friday, May 20, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s solo transatlantic flight from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Derry, Northern Ireland. Members of Canada’s Eastern Chapter of the Ninety-Nines–an international organization of female pilots–were in attendance, along with municipal and provincial dignitaries, members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and the Museum’s board of directors.
The renovated exhibit is a chronological retelling of Harbour Grace’s aviation story, which began in 1919, when the Handley Page “Atlantic” was shipped to the community in 105 gigantic crates. The story continued eight years later, in 1927, when the community constructed the island’s first permanent airstrip to accommodate the transatlantic crossing of the Pride of Detroit. Soon, transatlantic aviators flocked to Harbour Grace as the final stop between North America and Europe. Twenty transatlantic flights were recorded at the airstrip; some were successful, some unsuccessful. However, none were more famous than Earhart’s solo transatlantic flight on May 20, 1932, which made the pilot an international celebrity and feminist icon for generations.
The room also pays tribute to aviators from Harbour Grace, whose endeavours are well remembered in the community. Though Lamont (“Lal”) Parsons fought on behalf of the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain, he is perhaps best known for his daring feat of flying between the steeples of Harbour Grace’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Claude Stevenson is feted for his contributions to airstrip maintenance during the second half of the twentieth century.
Chair of the Conception Bay Museum, Patrick J. Collins, believes these local contributions are a critical part of the community’s story: “We always try to highlight the local here, in everything we do. Harbour Grace’s aviation story is an international showcase, certainly, but locals have done so much to preserve and promote our airstrip. The Parsonses, the Stevensons, the Pikes, the Archibalds–without their contributions, this legacy might only be a footnote. It’s to their credit that it isn’t. We’re proud to showcase that side of the story as part of our new exhibit.”
Also featured are the models of David Williams, an aviation enthusiast who handcrafted models of each plane associated with the community’s history. Possibly Williams’s finest work–a large model of the “Atlantic” biplane, constructed from leftover material of the original plane–hangs from the ceiling as a fitting showcase.
The public is invited to visit the new exhibit in person when the Conception Bay Museum opens for the season in late June. For further information, visit conceptionbaymuseum.com.
Patrick J. Collins
Matthew G. McCarthy