NORRIS ARM, NL — With a population of between 900 to 1,000 residents, Norris Arm would be considered a small town, but the history of the community reflects a past indicative of how varied and vital the area has been over the years.
The Fox Moth Museum and Heritage Centre embraces that history and over the past three to four years, has averaged 9,000 visitors per season.
The museum/centre board, made up of volunteers from the community, is always looking for ways to improve and enhance the displays and the building itself, which opened in 2008.
Noting that heritage and culture impact on tourism, thus providing the community with more jobs and new business opportunities, funding in the amount of $128,000 has been made available to the museum/centre through federal (Innovative Communities Fund and Canadian Heritage Canada Culture Spaces Fund) and provincial funding.
Funding for this project will go towards upgrades to heating, lighting, sound and electrical systems, as well as enhancements to museum displays and staging.
“This funding will enable the society to reach its goals of extending our tourism season, to develop hands-on learning experience to help educate visitors of all ages on local history, provide a more suitable venue for the performing arts by providing upgrades to lighting, sound, as well as enhancements to staging, improve seating for patrons during dinner theatre events,” said board chairperson Fred Budgell.
“Without this funding, it would be impossible to complete these enhancements to our facility.”
Board treasurer Cyril Langdon said the Fox Moth Museum and Heritage Centre is a multi-use building.
“We can convert from a full-time museum to an events facility within an hour,” he said. “After this year all of our artifacts and displays will be mobile, so it’s just a matter of moving everything off to the sides, pulling screens across, and we are ready to go for a function such as a dinner theatre, concert, book signing or community event.”
The museum features 3,000 feet of display space. When converted to an event centre, the Fox Moth can accommodate 120 people for a dinner theatre (with tables) or 200 for a concert.
The hope is to extend the season for holding events from April to December. Langdon explained this hadn’t been possible in the past, due to the prohibitive costs of heating the building.
With the new heating system those costs will be lowered, making it possible to host events possibly nine months of the year, depending on weather. The road leading to the Fox Moth is quite steep and snow clearing is an issue on this slope, so once the snow falls it will signal the end of the season, said Langdon.
The “flying boat” (seaplane) history of Norris Arm dates to the 1930s-40s, when the community was a hub for this mode of travel. The Fox Moth was designed to look like a hangar and constructed in the footprint of the actual hangar once located there.
While the aviation history is on display at the museum, there is much more to explore.
There is an area related to an archaeology discovery at nearby Rattling Brook. In 2005 a dig was conducted and around 6,000 artifacts were unearthed, dating back some 5,000 years ago to the Maritime Archaic. Langdon noted there wasn’t time to explore the full area designated for the dig because the site revealed too many artifacts.
Langdon said many Indigenous groups frequented the area over the years, noting they came there as it was a good source for salmon.
While the artifacts are located at The Rooms in St. John’s, Langdon said the Fox Moth is loaned about a dozen of those artifacts each tourism season (from June to Labour Day) to display.
A portion of the recent funding will be utilized to upgrade and expand this area of the museum.
Another area they are looking to improve is the military room, which features photos, documents, uniforms and other items from those who have served or serve in the military. Anyone looking to loan/donate items to this exhibit is encouraged to do so.
The museum also features display areas dedicated to the old school days, community history, logging/forestry and the railway.
“Up until the 1890s the railway ended at Norris Arm and that’s where all supplies for Notre Dame Bay would come through Norris Arm and be taken by boat to the areas,” Langdon said.
The hope is that as improvements and upgrades are made, the Fox Moth will attract even more visitors and events, allowing them to look at extending their museum tourism season beyond the summer months (June to Labour Day) when funding is available to hire museum staff.
Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms said, “The Fox Moth Museum and Heritage Centre is a key piece of tourism infrastructure in Norris Arm. These upgrades allow an expanded operating season and enhance the capacity of the community to seize new opportunities for sustainable growth and diversification in a strategic sector of the local economy.”
New volunteers welcome
Fox Moth Museum and Heritage Centre Board welcomes new volunteers to join them.
They meet once a month. To find out more contact any member of the board listed here:
Fred Budgell (chair)
Ann Breen (vice chair)
Dorinda Foote (secretary)
Cyril Langdon (treasurer)
Raie Lene Kirby
You can also visit the Fox Moth Museum and Heritage Centre website: