Seaward wants everyone to know the aviation museum is still relevant
Sandra Seaward wants it made known the North Atlantic Aviation Museum is still in the community and it’s still vitally important to the town of Gander.
© Matt Molloy/The Beacon
COME SEE HISTORY — Sandra Seaward, the executive director with the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, recently hosted a group of players from the tourism industry with hopes it leads to an influx of visitors over the summer.
Located on the Trans Canada Highway in Gander, near the Tourism Information Centre, the museum tracks the history of the Gander International Airport, and houses countless pieces of historic memorabilia, like a piece of steel from the World Trade Centre.
However, since it has been around for so long, Ms. Seaward said it’s only natural for residents of Gander to not notice the aircrafts scattered around the museum’s property.
“Believe it or not, the planes that are in our yard, people don’t notice them. It’s pretty amazing,” said Ms. Seaward with a chuckle. “We are a museum and we’ve been here for a long time. I guess people in the local area, like anywhere else, when you see it everyday you tend to not notice it, and it kind of blends in with the background of the town. We want to bring this to everyone’s attention again.”
To help bring it to the attention of the people — both tourists and locals — Ms. Seaward, the executive director at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, recently welcomed a group of players in the tourism industry to the newly-renovated museum.
The main goal of having these players tour the museum was to make sure they left impressed, and they went back spreading the word about the North Atlantic Aviation Museum.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring in some people from (the tourism) industry, particularly frontline people. These are the people that talk to the tourists as they’re coming through, and it’s pretty difficult to give people a head’s up where to go if they don’t know what it is,” said Ms. Seaward. “Not only can they say, ‘You can drop by the aviation museum,’ but they can also tell the tourists some of the things they can see and do here because they’ve seen it firsthand. It’s a lot different when you know what you’re talking about.
“We had a complete renovation job done last spring, and this will be our first full season with the renovations. It’s a world-class display. It’s definitely worth seeing.”
According to the executive director, the tourism players were “really, really pleased” with the tour and what they saw at the local museum, and everybody got around the museum and tested and saw and touched everything they could.
Now, she hopes they spread the word about the museum, and more people — both tourists and locals — stop by to see what they have to offer.
“There is nothing better than word of mouth, be it positive or negative,” said Ms. Seaward. “They were networking throughout the tour. It was a very relaxed, social atmosphere, and I do believe it was a positive experience, so people tend to talk about that. For every person that came in, if they tell a family of four, that family will talk to another family they find at the park, and it will carry on.”
And there is certainly a lot to take in at the museum.
It all starts with the history of Gander and its airport, which is a pretty unique story in its own right.
“We are a museum and we’ve been here for a long time.” Sandra Seaward
“The new displays start with the beginning of Gander. We basically started in a bog. 1935, Hattie’s Camp. It was nothing. It was the end of a railway line,” said Ms. Seaward. “You stopped that train and it was nothing. This site was chosen as the best possible site for an airport. From that little bog, we became the largest paved airport in the world at that time. We played a vital role in the evolution of aviation in travel and war.
“1935 wasn’t too long ago when you think about it…not when you think about the history of the province, of the country, of the world. It wasn’t that long ago,” added Ms. Seaward. “We’ve come a long, long way in very short time. Our displays will feature the evolution of the airport, and that will bring us right up to 2001, the 9/11 event, which, in a strange way, put us on the map. People didn’t even know we existed let alone where we were, and, suddenly, people here opened their doors to complete strangers in need. It touched the hearts of a lot of people. That’s featured, and we were lucky enough to be given a piece of steel structure (from the World Trade Center).”
Along with the many things to see, Ms. Seaward said the museum has a major initiative ongoing right now, one that would see an historic aircraft preserved for years to come.
As it stands, the Hudson Bomber currently rests outside of the museum, and Ms. Seaward said it’s important to hangar the Hudson.
“One of our best and biggest initiatives right now, and this is very important, is to hangar the Hudson. We need to raise money to build a hangar to bring (the Hudson) inside,” she said. “The Hudson Bomber is our prized possession. It’s outside right now, and it’s the only complete one of its kind in North America, and it’s the only one in the world left outside. Our harsh weather is taking its toll.”
“It’s a memorial to the (Atlantic) Ferry Command and to the people that served in the Second World War. These were the planes that were ferried across by the hundreds to Europe during the war, and it’s very, very important we hold on to that piece of history. That’s our biggest initiative, so if anyone wants to donate to that cause, please feel free.”
Ms. Seaward said plans are in the work to organize an activity at the museum during Festival of Flight that will be geared towards children.
The museum will also have a booth at Town Square Gander on Canada Day.