Nfld. & Labrador

Come for the coffee, stay for the history: Bonavista Bay café puts a spin on community museums

A partnership between a heritage committee and a newly opened café is finding new ways to talk about heritage in parts of Newfoundland's Bonavista Bay. 

Coffee shop serves as way to share important stories outside of a museum, owner says

Aunt Hannah's Cafe and Gallery opened in Centreville-Wareham-Trinity in July. (Aunt Hannah's Cafe and Gallery/Facebook)

A partnership between a heritage committee and a newly opened café is putting a spin on museums and telling historic stories about parts of Newfoundland's Bonavista Bay. 

Aunt Hannah's Café and Gallery opened in Centreville earlier this summer, and features walls lined with stories and images of its namesake and other pioneer women in the region.

The café is named after Hannah Rogers, owner Shane Noble's great-great-grandmother. The image of Rogers — who came to the region from Fair Island on Newfoundland's northeast coast — has been seen many times because of a much-reproduced photograph of her carrying water in buckets. 

"Aunt Hannah, I've seen her picture driving up Cape Spear on the mural. I didn't realize that that was my actual great aunt until a few years ago," Noble told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.

"The picture of her with the hoop and the water buckets is iconic," said Kirk White, member of the Centreville-Wareham-Trinity Heritage Committee. "It's throughout Newfoundland in many publications."

The project to include photos and other stories in the café has been in the works for over a year, according to White, who said the heritage committee wanted to find a better way to share stories outside of a museum environment.

Hannah Rogers came to the Centreville-Wareham-Trinity area from Fair Island in Bonavista Bay. This photo of Rogers, which has been used across the province, is on display at Aunt Hannah's Cafe. (Maritime History Archive, Memorial University)

Noble said the merger of the café and museum elements has proven to be a win-win for the community, allowing people and tourists from across the region to learn about part of the community's history.

"The heritage committee work very hard to present a quality product that needed a home. We wanted to have a café that provided a space for the community to come and gather. Two of it combined was a very useful opportunity," he said.

Outside of sharing the story of Aunt Hannah, White said the café also features stories and photos of other women who have impacted the region, like the area's past midwives.

"As we dug deep, we discovered that there was 17 midwives in this area that born a lot of babies. And each one of them had their own story," he said.

"Every time a picture came up of a midwife, there was a fascinating story attached to it … Their story should be told more, and celebrated more than what we have done."

White said the committee hopes to create more community-oriented projects like the café in the future.

Noble said he hopes to see the project expand as well, allowing more of the regions important stories to be shared to future generations.

"It's interesting to see the history that would be lost if people [didn't] share their pictures," he said.

"It's a very powerful thing to see that being passed on, stuff that they would never know about. It's only because of something like this. So we're proud of that."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Melissa Tobin