5 things you may not know about The Rooms

By Lauren Saunders
November 29, 2012

She stands majestically overlooking the harbour, sharing the dominance of our iconic skyline with the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Built on the same strategic location of Fort Townsend, an 18th century military fort that protected our city, The Rooms houses and protects all that is dear to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador: our history, our stories, our art and culture.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Chrysta Collins, Communications Officer for The Rooms, and was lucky enough to get a guided tour of our province’s cultural facility. The day’s events proved to me that The Rooms is as unique a place as the one we call home. Here are five things you may not know about The Rooms:

1. ‘The Rooms’ is constantly changing

Traveling exhibitions come to The Rooms from all over the world. Whenever a new exhibition is installed, it’s not just the artistic and cultural content that is refreshed; the entire “room” itself is changed and manipulated. Walls are moved, new colours are introduced. “The space dictates the scope.”Chrysta explains, “We may bring up a new wall piece from downstairs, paint it a different colour, and add some design elements to present the new exhibit.” These constantly changing exhibitions ensure that there is always new content to see, but how you see it is also diversified. Every visit offers a fresh perspective to the space.

2. It’s all about community

A stigma often associated with museums and art galleries is “stuffy”, but that’s just not the way our city rolls. The Rooms is all about community and it’s as warm and inviting as the people of Newfoundland & Labrador. The Rooms’ atrium is a free community space. You do not have to pay a fee to step inside and be surrounded by the largest collection of Newfoundland and Labrador history and culture our province has to offer. “Every Wednesday evening a knitting group meets upstairs. They aren’t affiliated with us. They just come and chose to use the space. It’s great! We want to see kids sprawled across the floor, playing or colouring. Why not come, sit down and bring your sketchbook? This is a place to be inspired!”

As an added bonus, admission to The Rooms’ exhibits is free every Wednesday night and also has one of the lowest admissions in Canada. But, do not let the price reflect the quality. The provincial, national and international content is rich.

The atrium (Photo Courtesy of The Rooms Corporation)

3. This is your place

Not only is The Rooms a community space, but you can contribute to it’s content. In the “Working On History: Watching our stories unfold” exhibition you can explore amazing artifacts that reflect life in NL from the 1700s to present day. In this exhibition, visitors are asked to tell what they know and what they want to know about the collections and stories. Whether you have lived in Newfoundland your entire life, have family here or if you’re visiting from away, you can add an experience, story, or unanswered question to the exhibition.

The Rooms is a place for all of us. It is our place to come together and to create meaningful and memorable experiences. It is our place to share the best of who we are.”

Feedback Station- “Tell us your stories.” Visitors write questions, stories, and experiences on post-it notes and attach them to the exhibit.

4. Who ever thought a trip to the museum could be an incredible dining experience?

The Rooms Café, deservedly so, was recently named one of the Top 5 Museum Restaurants in Canada by WestJet’s Up! Here you can enjoy delicious food and coffee while taking in one of the best views of St. John’s Harbour the city has to offer. Whether you are stopping by for coffee, considering an intimate dinner for two or a gala reception for 200, a private event at The Rooms is always an option. This place will leave you and your guests with a lasting impression.

Enjoying a coffee in The Rooms Cafe. What a view!

5. Coming in 2013!

It’s never a dull moment at The Rooms and 2013 is going to be a big year. Renowned Newfoundland and Labrador artist Mary Pratt will be celebrated in a 50-year retrospective exhibition that will open at the Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in June 2013 then tour Canada until January 2015.

The long awaited additional exhibition space announced in 2010, the Husky Energy Gallery and Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery, will also open this upcoming year. The Husky Energy Gallery will present an exhibition showcasing the province’s ethnological and historical artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries; provide the provincial orientation point for the history and culture of our province as experienced by the Inuit, Innu, Mi’kmaq, the people of NunatuKavut, European and other settlers; and, trace 300 years of history through artifacts, historical documents, as well as historic and contemporary art from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery, built above the Husky Energy Gallery, will house an exhibition on the contemporary history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 1,400 square foot exhibition will capture Newfoundland and Labrador’s collective history through the narratives and intangible heritage that contributes to our unique sense of identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

If you haven’t already visited The Rooms, plan your visit for 2013. If you’ve already been here, it’s a great time to come back for a fresh perspective. For additional information about the Rooms and its upcoming events and exhibitions please visit their website for details. www.therooms.ca