Documentary Video Series (English)

Welcome to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website Documentary Series. These are short documentaries, about 10 to 15 minutes long, which explore a wide range of topics related to Newfoundland and Labrador history. The videos are extensively illustrated with archival photographs, documents, and moving footage. The series was launched in March 2015 and will continue to grow over the next few years as more videos are added.

General Subject Videos

With the Camera: The Life of Elsie Holloway

Learn about the fascinating life of Elsie Holloway: Newfoundland and Labrador's first female professional photographer.

Bob Bartlett: Arctic Adventurer

Bob Bartlett has been called one of the greatest ice captains of the 20th century. He skippered some of the most famous and dangerous expeditions to the Arctic that the world has ever known, he travelled further north than almost any other person, was shipwrecked at least 15 times, and once, when sea ice crushed his ship, he travelled 1,100 kilometres by dogsled to reach civilization. This video takes a look at his fascinating life.

The Grenfell Mission

In the summer of 1892, a young British physician named Wilfred Grenfell arrived at the Labrador coast aboard the medical vessel Albert. He would spend the rest of his life providing medical services to Labrador and northern Newfoundland. Learn about his work in this video.

A Logger's Life Before Confederation

Logging in pre-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador relied on the muscle and endurance of its workers. From sunrise until sunset, the men chopped down trees, hauled logs, and helped to bring the wood to the mill site. Lean about the working life of a pre-Confederation logger in this video.

Mining in Pre-Confederation Newfoundland

This video takes a look at the development of a mining industry in pre-Confederation Newfoundland. Find out about mines at Notre Dame Bay, Bell Island, and Buchans.

The Great Depression in Newfoundland and Labrador

On October 29, 1929, the American stock market crashed and the global economy entered a free fall. Newfoundland and Labrador was hit hard. Its economy centred around exports - the sale of codfish, iron ore, and paper to foreign buyers. But after the stock market crashed, those markets almost disappeared. This video examines how Newfoundland and Labrador weathered the financial turmoil of the 1930s.

The Transatlantic Telegraph Cable

On July 27, 1866, the largest steamship on Earth arrived at Heart's Content to lay down the final section of an underwater telegraph cable that stretched all the way back to Ireland. News that once took more than a week to travel between North America and Europe could now arrive in minutes - and it was through the tiny fishing village of Heart's Content that some of the world's greatest cities now communicated. This video tells the story of the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable.

Political Reform: 1811-1832

This 10-minute video is about the reform movement, which helped bring representative government to Newfoundland in 1832.

The Winding Road to Confederation - Part V: The 1948 Referendums

Watch the final instalment in out five-part series on Confederation. In 1948, the Newfoundland and Labrador people were readying themselves to go to the polls. Their job was to decide which form of government would administer the country. Their choices were revealed on March 11, 1948: Commission of Government for a period of five years; Responsible Government as it existed in 1933; and Confederation with Canada

The Winding Road to Confederation - Part IV: The National Convention, 1946-1948

This is the fourth video in our five-part series on Confederation. In 1945, the Newfoundland and Labrador people elected 45 delegates to the National Convention. The Convention had two jobs: to examine Newfoundland and Labrador's economic and social condition; and, based on those investigations, to recommend possible future forms of government to be put before the people in a referendum.

The Winding Road to Confederation - Part III: The War Years, 1939-1945

This is the third video in our five-part series on Confederation. It examines how the Second World War affected Newfoundland and Labrador's relationship with Canada.

The Winding Road to Confederation Part II: Relations with Canada, 1870-1939

Newfoundland might have rejected confederation with Canada in 1869, but it still had to get along with its neighbour to the west. This video explores Newfoundland's relationship with Canada from 1870-1939.

The Winding Road to Confederation Part I: The 1869 Election

This is the first video in our five-part series on Confederation. At precisely one minute before midnight on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada - but it held its first election on the matter 80 years earlier. For five years in the 1860s, confederation dominated political debate in what was then the colony of Newfoundland. This video takes a look at what happened.

The Migratory Fishery at Ferryland

What was life like for migratory fishers visiting Newfoundland in the 1500s? This video takes us to an archaeological dig at Ferryland to find out.

The Newfoundland Railway Part II: The Era of the Reids

In June of 1890, a Scottish railway contractor named Robert Reid signed a contract to take over construction of the Newfoundland Railway. His family would go on to manage the line for the next three decades. This video chronicles the Reid family's involvement with the Newfoundland Railway.

The Newfoundland Railway Part I: Entering the Railway Age

By the end of the 1860s, the Western World had entered the railway age. Tracks stretched across much of North America, Britain, and continental Europe. They tied together major cities and they opened up new regions. Soon, people began to talk about a Newfoundland Railway. Find out how the railway came to Newfoundland in this video.

The Newfoundland Ranger Force

They patrolled thousands of miles of wilderness, they caught smugglers, they distributed food rations to the hungry, they fought forest fires, and when they had to, they set broken bones, pulled teeth, and they even delivered babies. They were the men of the Newfoundland Ranger Force. This video tells their story.

Women of the Inshore Fishery

It is an image that has been knit into our understanding of Newfoundland and Labrador history: women in long skirts spreading codfish to dry on the flakes. They were known as the shore crew and their work was vital to the inshore cod fishery. Learn more about the women of the inshore fishery in this video.


Between 1954 and 1975, about 30,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians left their outport homes and moved into larger towns and settlements, known as growth centres. They did this under government-run resettlement programs. In just two decades, more than 250 villages disappeared. Some had been around for centuries.

Women's Suffrage in Newfoundland

Learn how women won the right to vote and run for public office. This video traces the women's suffrage movement in Newfoundland, from its beginnings in the 1890s to its victory in April 1925.

The Great St. John's Fire of 1892

In the dry hot summer of 1892, a great fire consumed St. John's. Two thirds of the city burned to the ground and 11,000 people were left homeless. Three died. This video takes us through the day of the fire and examines its causes and consequences.

The Steamer Seal Hunt, 1862-1950

The seal hunt of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a story of extremes, about men who pushed themselves to the limits of human strength and endurance in one of the most unforgiving places on the planet: the North Atlantic ice fields. This video chronicles the rise and fall of the steamer seal hunt.

The 19th Century Salt-Cod Fisheries

It has been called the fish that launched a thousand ships: cod brought Europeans to Newfoundland and Labrador, and cod made them stay. What started out as a migratory fishery in the 1500s, gave way to a resident operation in the 1800s. For the rest of that century, the salt cod fishery was the engine that drove the colony's economy. This video is about Newfoundland and Labrador's historic salt-cod fishery.

A Settler's Life in Newfoundland and Labrador 1780-1840

Learn what life was like for the Europeans who settled in Newfoundland and Labrador during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The 1894 Bank Crash

It would become known as Black Monday. On the morning of December 10, 1894, two of Newfoundland's three banks closed their doors. They would never open again. The bank notes that had been the colony's main form of currency were rendered practically worthless. This video examines the time leading up to and immediately after the Bank Crash of 1894.

19th-Century Medicine in Newfoundland and Labrador

At the start of the 1800s, Newfoundland and Labrador had little in the way of medical services. In many places, healers had to come from the home and the community. This video explores what medicine was like for people living in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1800s.

The 1929 Burin Tsunami

Learn about the tsunami that struck Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula on November 18, 1929. The disaster killed 28 people and left hundreds more homeless or destitute. It was the most destructive earthquake-related event in Newfoundland and Labrador's history and occurred at the beginning of a worldwide depression.

First World War

The Fighting Vaughan Brothers

This video is about four brothers who served with the Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War, and about their niece, who is preserving their memory 100 years later.

The Newfoundland Regiment Part I: Before Beaumont-Hamel

Learn how the Newfoundland Regiment formed in August 1914 and then follow its activities over the next 22 months. Topics include recruitment, training at St. John's and in the United Kingdom, and frontline service at Gallipoli.

The Newfoundland Regiment Part II: At Beaumont Hamel

Of all the battles that the Newfoundland Regiment fought during the First World War, none was as devastating or as defining as the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Regiment's tragic advance at Beaumont-Hamel on the morning of July 1, 1916 became an enduring symbol of its valour and of its terrible wartime sacrifices. This video examines the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel and the effects it had on Newfoundland and Labrador society.

The Newfoundland Regiment Part III: After Beaumont Hamel

This video chronicles the Newfoundland Regiment's activities after Beaumont-Hamel. Topics include the Regiment's service at Belgium, France, and Germany, and its demobilization after peace was restored on November 11, 1918. Learn about important victories at Monchy-le-Preux and Courtrai, how the Regiment won the prestigious title of "Royal", and how Private Thomas Ricketts earned the Victoria Cross.

The Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve

Sailors from Newfoundland and Labrador served in almost every flotilla and squadron of the Royal Navy during the First World War. This video looks at the formation of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve in 1900 and traces its activities during the First World War.

The Women Who Went Overseas

Women from Newfoundland and Labrador were not allowed to enlist in the armed forces during the First World War, but they could still serve overseas as nurses. This video explores what life was like for the professional nurses who served overseas and for the women who joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment - a league of semi-trained nurses who served in military hospitals.

Frances Cluett, Wartime Nurse

Cluett was a schoolteacher from Belloram, Fortune Bay, who served overseas as a nurse during the First World War. This video traces her steps as she travels to St. John's, New York, London, France, and Turkey. Hear the fascinating letters she sent to her family back home and see the dozens of photographs she collected overseas.

Women on the Home Front

During the First World War, more than 15,000 women from across Newfoundland volunteered their time, energy, and expertise to help Allied forces overseas and to boost morale at home. This video chronicles the activities of the Women's Patriotic Association, from its formation in 1914 to its dissolution in 1921.

Other Forces in the First World War

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve are the two most famous forces that recruited Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the First World War - but they weren't the only ones. This video is about the other military forces and non-combatant units that accepted volunteers from the dominion, including the Newfoundland Forestry Corps, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Merchant Navy.

Cluny Macpherson in the First World War

Learn about Cluny Macpherson: the doctor from Newfoundland and Labrador who invented the gas mask during the First World War. His invention saved countless lives and some say it even altered the course of the war.

Fighting Labradorians

The traditional skills of many Labradorians made them valuable soldiers in the First World War. Many of the men were trappers and hunters. They were good marksmen who were used to spending long stretches of time outside, living in rough conditions and with little shelter from the elements. All of this came in handy in the trenches of the First World War. This video is about the Labradorians who joined the Newfoundland Regiment.

First World War Letters

During the First World War, letters were a vital link between the men and women who served overseas and their family at home. Today, we still cherish those same letters because they give us valuable insight into the human story of war, which cannot be recreated by official histories, military records, or government documents. This video examines the letters of the First World War. See what a soldier wrote from the front lines and a nurse from a military hospital. Also see the words that a worried mother wrote to her son.

Prisoners of War from the Newfoundland Regiment

Vast numbers of prisoners of war were captured during the First World War. In the first six months alone, more than 1 million people were being held in Europe. By the time peace was restored in 1918, about 8 million servicemen and 2 million civilians had been detained across the globe. Among them were about 180 members of the Newfoundland Regiment. Learn about their experiences in this video.

Managing the War Effort: The Newfoundland Patriotic Association

The First World War presented Newfoundland and Labrador with a management problem. How could a small dominion that had little money and even less military experience launch and sustain an effective war effort? Find out how by watching this video.

Post-War Society

On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the Armistice and the First World War was finally over. This video explores what life was like in Newfoundland and Labrador during the next two decades.

The First World War and Newfoundland's Economy

This video explores the effects that the First World War had on Newfoundland and Labrador's economy. In the short-term there was prosperity, triggered by wartime spending and a suddenly booming fishery. That was followed by years of debilitating debt - debt that was largely brought on by the staggering costs of raising and maintaining the Newfoundland Regiment.

First World War Commemorations

After the First World War, people in Newfoundland and Labrador wanted to remember the men and women who had served overseas and to honour the war dead. This video is about the many commemorations that the dominion established once peace was restored.

The First World War's Lost Generation

The men and women who served in the First World War have been called Newfoundland and Labrador's lost generation. The lost includes those who died, but it also refers to those who returned home, forever changed by the physical and psychological wounds that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. This video examines the effects of the war on individuals, families, and communities.

En Français