Colony of Avalon Foundation
Annual Report October 30, 2006
We have just completed the 15th season of archaeology and conservation and as always we continue to be amazed at the new discoveries being made in that area. This season has been, as always, a treasure trove of artifacts. Some of the artifacts this year include the usual hundreds of pipe bowls, ceramics from England, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and America and a number of unique objects. From the skeleton of a dog to a rare ear pick in the form of a billfish or dolphin. This season also revealed another “DK” (David Kirke) token… the fourth to be found. Paul Berry, Chief Curator, of the National Currency Collection, Bank of Canada, Ottawa, visited the site in September to study the latest token. He believes that those tokens represent the first pieces of money to be manufactured in British North America. As always, such finds creates great excitement among staff and management alike. It is the ever changing site that drives the interest of the visiting public.
This season has been very successful in terms of numbers of visitors to the site. We have a 20% increase in visitation over 2005. We continue to strive to provide visitors with an unforgettable experience. All of our front line staff have completed training and have received certification in their areas of expertise. This includes tour guides and historical interpreters who now have national certification. This program is delivered through Hospitality NL for the Canadian Tourism Association. In addition, all front line staff have completed the Super Host program. The tour guides have been asked to provide input on the revision of the Tour Guide Workbook. Both of our historical interpreters have been invited to participate in a workshop in Alberta in November to offer input into the revisions for National Certification program for historical interpreters. It is a credit to the Colony and the staff that they are being recognized as leaders in the Tourism industry.
We have developed a program for schools and this year we saw 33 schools on the Avalon participate. This was a record number and feedback from teachers and students is very positive.
We continue to aggressively market the Colony of Avalon and the region in general. We are participants in the extensive marketing program of Signature Attractions of Atlantic Canada of which we are a member. This marketing program is done through the American & Canadian Automobile Association as well as through major companies throughout Canada. We also continue to market to the resident and non-resident tourist through trade shows, print advertising and radio. We participate in familiarization tours with the provincial Department of Tourism and Destination St. John’s. We hosted several media and travel writers in 2006. The results of those visits have been very positive for the Colony with articles appearing in several newspapers and magazines. This type of promotion we could never afford to buy! In July we hosted Loyal and Millie Benham of New Mexico. The Benham’s have provided funding for the past four years to hire two students to work at the site. They have been visiting the site since 1995. We are very grateful to the Benhams for their continued support. We also thank our members, Dr. Geffery Downton and Roger and Barbara Crosbie for their substantial donations each year.
In the spring of this year we renovated a space to accommodate a Collection Storage area. This space was fitted with mobile shelving units which can store much of the collection of artifacts from the site. The artifacts can now be easily accessed by staff and researchers alike. The project was made possible through a partnership between Colony of Avalon and Heritage Canada, Services Canada, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and much appreciated assistance from George Piatt, Dr. Jim Tuck, Cathy Mathias and Gillian Noseworthy. This is a major accomplishment for this organization.
In January of this year we attended the Canadian Museums Shop Conference in Toronto. The presentations there made us realize that we must “theme” our gift shop in order to provide the visitor with an “experience”. We took away some wonderful ideas from the conference and we worked with the gift shop committee to develop a new layout, graphics and signage that now reflect the site. The theme of our promotional material has been “Once a gateway to North America, now A Window On The Past”. We took part of that theme and incorporated it into the shop. The shop is now called “A Window On The Past” Gift Shop. A new logo was developed that reflect the theme. As a result we have seen an increase in sales in the past season. Funding to assist with this remodeling was provided by the Craft Industry Development Program in cooperation with the Craft Development Council.
Over the past year we have worked with the graphic design students of the College of the North Atlantic to produce new promotional material such as brochures, service cards and bookmarks. The design work was completed in the spring and again, Newfoundland Power, who has been a valued partner for several years, done some printing for us.
For the past several months we have been working with the Sheep Producers Association of Newfoundland & Labrador to develop a Heritage Sheep project for the site. Work on the first phase of this project will begin in the spring of 2007. We continue to try to add more attractions at the site in order to extend the stay for visitors. Another goal of the Colony is to introduce a pilot project that will see visitors “Pay to Dig” since the visitors we are seeing now are looking for a unique experience. This program, if implemented, could also bode well for the accommodations sector in the region.
One of the greatest challenges we still face is seeking the funding necessary for the continued archaeology, conservation and interpretation. While we receive financial operating support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation we have to rely much more on the revenue generated through admissions, gift shop sales, donations and memberships. We presently generate between 35 or 40% of our total budget from those sources.
We wish to extend a sincere “thank you” to archaeologists Dr. Jim Tuck and Barry Gaulton for continuing to bring the site to life each summer. Archaeology creates an excitement in the community as new finds are discovered. Thank you to Cathy Mathias and Gillian Noseworthy of the archaeology unit of MUN for the many hours you dedicate to the preservation and conservation of artifacts. To Ellen Folkes who has donated her services to the lab each summer, thank you. Thank you to Alice Kavanagh, of the seniors volunteer program for the countless hours spent in the gardens. To Charlotte Newton a conservator with the Canadian Conservation Institute who, with her family, comes to the site during her summer vacation each year to help in the laboratory and the field, thank you. Also Judy Logan, retired conservator with Canadian Conservation Institute, thank you for spending the month of September at the lab. It is with the expertise of all of you that enables us to showcase this site to the world as one of the best preserved colonial sites in North America.
To the field crew, lab assistants, tour guides, gift shop staff, historical interpreters, gardener and maintenance staff we extend sincere thanks. Thank You to Anne St. Croix, staff supervisor, for providing guidance and advice. You all are the mechanisms that make the machine run smoothly. It is through your dedication and professionalism that the Colony has received recognition as a tourist destination and an anchor attraction in the Irish Loop. The results of a mystery shop program indicated that our greatest resource is the staff we employ. You should all be proud of the service you provide. To our Manager, Lil Hawkins and Administrative Assistant, Sheila Quinn, thank you, without your efforts the organization would not be run as efficiently as it has these many years. To the Board of Directors, thank you for your input and direction and for the many volunteer hours you give to the organization.
While our facilities are now closed, it is a time to analyze the previous season and work towards making the next tourism season even more productive and enjoyable for our visitors.