New Brunswick

Grande-Anse re-opens museum with new cultural theme

A museum in in Grande-Anse has reopened with a new name and a new theme a year after its transition began. The Founding Cultures Museum has replaced the former Popes' Museum that was closed in 2015 after 30 years of operation.

Old Papal museum now features heritage of five founding cultures

Irish heritage is one of the cultures featured at the Founding Cultures Museum. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

A museum in Grande-Anse has reopened with a new name and a new theme a year after its transition began.

The Founding Cultures Museum has replaced the former Popes' Museum that was closed in 2015 after 30 years of operation.

Director and curator Josée Landry says the new museum features the history of the founding cultures of the province: First Nations, Acadian, Irish, Scottish, and British.

"So in the long run we want to have five exhibit galleries explaining the history, how they got here, how they strive and especially how they live together," said Landry.

Josée Landry, curator of the Founding Cultures Museum says work will continue on the permanent exhibits this season. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Landry said work will continue this year as they transition from one themed museum to another with the permanent exhibits. She adds they are hoping to get $150,000 in community donations to finish the work.

"So we're in the process of mounting the Irish and Scottish exhibit rooms. The Acadian room is ready. It's not final, but it's kind of like a dry run this summer."

After being open a week, Landry said the local communities seem pleased with the change.

"People are really excited. It's very trendy to want to regroup cultures and to see how they work and how they work together."

Unique community

Mary Anne Riordon-Barry, a resident of Pokeshaw, has volunteered to set up the Irish exhibit.

Mary Anne Riordon-Barry of Pokeshaw is a volunteer with the Founding Cultures Museum. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
She explained how the cultures of the area worked together.

"I grew up in a small community that has Irish and Catholic people. The people in Grande-Anse were mostly Francophone and Catholic. The people in New Bandon, Stonehaven, Clifton, on the other side of us, they were, and most are, Protestant and Irish.

We were in the middle of two different cultures. We'd go one way for our religion and another way for our schooling."

Riordon-Barry says while it's unfortunate visitors to the former Popes' Museum declined, being able to create a new museum to feature the local heritage is a win-win situation for everyone.

Landry said in her opinion Grande-Anse was a very special village.

"It's as separate as one house. From one house up, they're English, and from one house down, they're French. But the children from the Irish communities along the shore come to school to Grande-Anse.

"Those kids learn French in the Grande-Anse school and go on to Bathurst High and the French go to Caraquet. That makes a particular kind of people. Pretty well everybody is bilingual. We know their culture. We're in the parish of New Bandon here, let's not forget it."

A model of St. Peter's Basilica, from the old Popes' Museum, remains in the museum. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
And for those wondering about the all the items from the Popes' Museum, Landry says all 366 popes are wrapped up and in storage.

Landry adds all will be organized as travelling exhibits.

"The popes will live on and travel."

With files from Bridget Yard