Newfoundland and Labrador: vibrant, unusual and distinct. Here where the land meets the sea, different peoples have forged a rich, diverse culture that is unique in the world.
Visitors are drawn to this place. They come seeking something original and authentic. They are welcome here—and they are not disappointed.
The Rooms is a place for all of us: for those who live here and those who want to experience it fully. Part sanctuary, part showcase, part classroom and part playground, it’s both a destination and a journey. This is a gathering place, a creative space and a cultural centre as distinct and unique as Newfoundland and Labrador. It is our place to come together, to create meaningful and memorable experiences. It is our place to share the best of who we are.
This is our archives, art gallery and our museum.
The Rooms unites the provincial archives, art gallery and museum, creating a vibrant nexus of history, heritage and artistic expression. Our collections, exhibits and programs interpret our natural world and our human traditions through art, artifacts, archaeology, architecture and archival records.
Since it opened in 2005, The Rooms has presented hundreds of exhibitions and more than 1,000 education and public programs, capturing the imagination of almost 1 million visitors—and the numbers grow every season.
About Our Building and Site
Soaring into the skyline of downtown St. John’s, The Rooms combines modern technology with a striking visual reference to our past. Its design mirrors the fishing rooms where families came together to process their catch. Precision environmental controls and a state-of-the-art security system allow The Rooms to safeguard the treasures it contains and to bring in travelling exhibitions that highlight the best the world has to offer.
Designed by Philip Pratt, Charles Henley and Paul Blackwood of the architectural firm PHB Group and finished in local granite, local wood, brushed aluminum and acres of glass, our building is as distinctive as Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Rooms location is also historically significant. Almost 250 years ago, this was the location of Fort Townshend. The star-shaped citadel, one of the largest British fortifications in North America at the time, defended Britain's fishing interests. After 1870, the site became home to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and, later, the St. John's Fire Department.
Before construction began on The Rooms, archaeological work was done to ensure none of the history was lost. The Rooms was built in a way that preserved the history beneath it.
A truly public space, The Rooms is fully accessible. Wheelchairs and infant strollers are available upon request.
The Rooms is an innovative, culturally relevant institution that represents and showcases Newfoundland and Labrador to itself and to the world, and brings the wider world to its doorstep.
The Mandate of The Rooms, as outlined in The Rooms Act, are to:
- collect, preserve, present and make available for research the historic artifacts, natural history specimens and archival records that represent and illustrate the natural heritage of the Province;
- conduct research with respect to the history, natural history, culture and heritage of the Province;
- collect and present provincial, national and international contemporary and historic art;
- advance and promote the works of contemporary visual artists of the Province;
- support the development of cultural industries in the Province;
- strengthen the culture of the Province; and
- provide and enhance client services and partnerships to promote the cultural collections of the Province and to show other national and international collections.
As a public institution accountable to the Government and people of Newfoundland and Labrador, The Rooms must provide great value to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The care, exhibition, and access to the priceless artifacts, artworks and documents belonging to the people of the Province; outreach beyond St. John’s; and, the focus on educational programming to deepen the pride and identity of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, together form the foundation of The Rooms’ Mission Statement.
Mission Statement (2011-17)
By March 31, 2017, The Rooms will have further engaged the public through thought-provoking exhibits and programs which will reflect the interests, aspirations and concerns of the people of our Province.
Read The Rooms Strategic Plan.
The Rooms Corporation is a provincial crown corporation governed by a Board of Directors, who are appointed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Tom Foran, Chair
Lisa Browne, Vice Chair
Jeff Pardy, Treasurer
Ted Lomond, Department Representative
“We live at a time in which the internet and digital media are eroding many cultures. The culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, however, remains uniquely strong. As our economy grows and attracts investment, it becomes even more important to understand our shared past in order to know who we are and, more importantly, who we want to become.”
- Dean Brinton is the Chief Executive Officer of The Rooms Corporation.
The Rooms brings together three divisions—the archives, the art gallery and the museum—all of which are responsible for developing and managing collections and programming. However, The Rooms is more than the sum of these parts. Exciting opportunities for collaboration produce richer visitor experiences as we increasingly undertake interdisciplinary exhibitions and educational programs.
The archives preserves records of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador that have enduring legal, fiscal, evidential or research value. The archives also collects records from private sources which have enduring value to the history of the province.
Archivists and technicians constantly engage with private donors and government departments to identify and acquire new collections. We make these collections accessible to the public. Some collections are online; some form exhibitions at The Rooms. In the Reference Room, staff offer direction and assistance, showing researchers how to properly handle archival material and helping guide them in finding answers to their questions.
“Given the state-of-the-art facilities we’re fortunate enough to operate here, I’d say we are the envy of every other archive in Canada.
We have records no one else has in the world, and we have the resources to protect them.”
- Greg Walsh, Director, Archives Division
The art gallery manages a collection of over 7,000 works, ranging from historical to contemporary, from international art to local crafts and folk art. While we concentrate most on Newfoundland and Labrador artists, the collection includes many other Canadian works. New work is regularly added, and the Art Gallery curates many major exhibitions annually.
“I think it is important to use ones senses when viewing art of any kind. It is imperative, for example, to remember that artworks are not riddles to be solved via analytic steps: experiential, contemporary artworks often engage
with audiences directly, inviting them into the process of making meaning. Contemporary art asks questions of us and we must be prepared to face them with openness and curiosity.”
- Vicky Chainey Gagnon, Director/Chief Curator, Art Gallery Division
Our museum tells the story of Newfoundland and Labrador, its diverse peoples, and its natural environment. Over a million natural history specimens and over a million artifacts bring these stories to life, connecting us with the past and the environment that has shaped our experiences and been changed by our presence.
Three floors of exhibit space give the museum the capacity to interpret our past in many ways. There are permanent and temporary exhibitions from our collections, as well as travelling exhibitions that come from around the world. Those who want to delve deeper can arrange in advance to access our research collections.
Visitors are invited to broaden their experience of the museum by taking part in a variety of extensive and exciting programming. From special events to interactive media to on-site learning experiences, the museum offers a diversity of ways to better understand our environment and ourselves.
The Rooms also manages three Regional Museums—located in Grand Falls-Windsor, Grand Bank, and North West River in Labrador. Learn more about Regional Museums.
“People here have such a strong sense of who they are … such a strong connection to history.
They’re clamouring to see the things that make them unique. I’d say this makes us pretty different from most other Canadians.”
- Anne Chafe, Director, Museum Division