While the specific location of Lord Baltimore’s Colony of Avalon was not known, the people of Ferryland were no strangers to the history of the location. Many a local has a story of finding a piece of pottery or glass in their gardens, yet the exact location was a mystery. Local knowledge was the key to unlocking the location of the settlement, with residents and local historians providing essential guidance during early excavations.
The not-for-profit community-based Colony of Avalon Foundation was incorporated in 1994 to turn the accidental unearthing of the area’s history into a mission to investigate, preserve and present the archaeological remains on the site.
Starting as an archaeological dig and investigation, the project quickly grew during the 90s when the cod moratorium saw large numbers of locals involved in fishing out of their usual work. In an effort to keep locals employed and build local tourism, the government helped with funding additional digging, keeping the community that had been instrumental to the discovery involved and optimistic for the future of Ferryland.
The richness and variety of the artifacts uncovered blew away researchers and visitors alike. Completely blowing away the stereotypes on how colonists lived, the dig turned up gold coins, beautiful jewellery, and venetian glass. Visitors still struggle to match the wealth and importance to British politics to the stories they learned in school.
As the dig progressed, so too did the facilities around the site. The Ferryland school became the Visitor Centre allowing the lab and museums to be incorporated to the site, bringing one of the most important features of a visit – going up into the lab and seeing what was discovered yesterday, or a couple of days ago while talking to the people in the lab and looking at stuff up close. Not everything is behind a glass case (although some is!). The addition of the 17th Century kitchen, gift shop and gardens in the 2000’s added depth to the experience and continue to delight visitors.
The Colony of Avalon continues to sustain the community as it did in the 90s, offering employment to Ferryland locals and encouraging visitors to stop on their way around the Southern Shore. Education remain paramount to what they do – teaching comes first, both for visitors and the archaeology students getting on-site experience. Bringing history to life with storytelling and shattering expectations keeps it engaging and makes sure everyone has a great time every visit.