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Housing History: The Aviation Room Exhibit

In his later years, Bill Parsons volunteered his time with the Conception Bay Museum in Harbour Grace. As chairperson, Parsons was responsible for the creation of a permanent aviation exhibit at the museum.

The ‘Aviation Room’ opened in 1982, on the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s historic solo transatlantic flight. The exhibit featured Parsons’s photography, original artifacts, and the Harbour Grace Airport Trust Company logbook.

A black and white photograph of Bill Parsons pointing to pictures of Amelia Earhart on display at the Conception Bay Museum. There are two plane propellers on display in room.

Bill Parsons at the old Aviation Room exhibit, 1982.

The exhibit later showcased handcrafted models of each plane that visited the community during the heyday of transatlantic aviation. David Williams, a Newfoundland aviation enthusiast, constructed these models for the exhibit.

In 2022, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Earhart’s flight, the museum renovated Parsons’s original Aviation Room exhibit.

The new exhibit is a thematic retelling of Harbour Grace’s aviation legacy, with features on both the contributions of women and local aviators. David Williams’s models and the logbook remain part of the exhibition space.

A coloured photograph of an exhibit space with storyboards posted on the walls and a glass case displays 12 small model planes.

The new Aviation Room exhibit at the Conception Bay Museum, 2022.

Importantly, for Patrick J. Collins, present chairperson of the Conception Bay Museum, the new exhibit is rooted in local history. “We always try to highlight the local here, in everything we do,” Collins says.

“Harbour Grace’s aviation story is an international showcase, but locals have done much to preserve and promote our airstrip. Without these contributions, our aviation legacy might only be a footnote. It’s to their credit that it isn’t. We’re proud to showcase their stories as part of the new exhibit.”

Ultimately, the aviation exhibit is a celebration of community spirit and endeavour. The exhibit provides a space to preserve and communicate this story to visitors and the next generation.

Enjoy this interview with young aviation enthusiast Austin Thorne (with transcript).