You can’t miss The Rooms in St. John’s. The magnificent structure dominates the city. Situated like a beacon atop a hill covered with multi-coloured houses, The Rooms are in form based on the “fishing rooms” that surround typical Newfoundland harbours. In these “fishing rooms” the catch from the sea was processed before being taken to the vessels of merchants for transportation to markets abroad.
The Rooms is built over the remains of Fort Townshend. Like The Rooms, the large star shaped fortification commanded attention to all who entered the harbour of St. John’s below. It was meant to ensure that the British controlled Newfoundland fishery remained secure from foreign incursion.
The view of St. John’s from The Rooms is one of the most astounding features of the structure. Floor to ceiling windows permit the visitor to take in the panorama of the colourful city and harbour below. It’s a view that visitors are not likely to forget and is certainly the most photographed scene in St. John’s.
The Rooms houses a museum, an art gallery, archives, gift shop and cafe all of which are focussed on the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. For example the menu of the cafe includes such local dishes as Newfoundland salt cod cakes, caribou Bolognese and traditional Newfoundland toutons and the gift shop stocks unusual Newfoundland souvenirs and Newfoundland books and music.
The art gallery has changing exhibitions of contemporary art highlighting the work of some of the many talented Newfoundland and Labrador artists. A permanent exhibition space is devoted to showing significant works from the permanent collection of the gallery, some of which record early views of the province.
The museum has a permanent exhibition tracing the history of Newfoundland and Labrador from the era of early exploration and European contact with the indigenous peoples – the Beothuks in Newfoundland and the Inuit, Innu and Métis in Labrador. The visitor follows the timeline of history through the period of British colonial administration to the modern day.
Johnson GEO Centre
While The Rooms thrusts itself up above St. John’s, the Johnson GEO Centre does just the opposite. The treasure of this museum is down below in the rock of Signal Hill. The visitor enters a modern glass lobby and then descends by elevator to galleries excavated from the ancient rock of St. John’s. It is here that you will truly understand the geological makeup of Newfoundland and Labrador. Remember that Newfoundland is affectionately called “The Rock” for a very good reason.
The Johnson GEO Centre has even greater ambitions than just explaining the geology of the province for here you are presented with exhibits on the history of the earth from volcanoes to earthquakes and the natural forces that shape our world. Also there is a fascinating permanent exhibit on the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland and a display with amazing objects showing the development of the Newfoundland off-shore oil fields.
The Suncor Energy Fluvarium
To top off your museum experience in St. John’s try another unique view of the world afforded by the Fluvarium located in Pippy Park. The idea of this exhibit centre is to encourage appreciation of river and watershed ecosystems. Two levels of exhibitions follow the earth’s greatest resource from a model of a water molecule to a flowing stream. The highlight of the Fluvarium is the special opportunity to peek into a living ecosystem from underwater. Nine large viewing windows allow you to inspect the aquatic life in Nagle’s Hill Brook which flows by the museum.