Springdale's secret museum and the collector who became too famous

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Springdale's secret museum and the collector who became too famous

Springdale's secret museum and the collector who became too famous

Just inches from the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Springdale is a single door with a small sign that reads "Admission $2.50."

Behind it lies a two-storey museum seemingly frozen in time.

It belongs to Pete Parsons and building it was his lifelong dream — a dream to showcase the history of that part of central Newfoundland, and a way to capture his own history.

"It put me in touch with my past and saved it for the future and it was nice to show it to other people," said Parsons.

"It's like it completed a section of my life."

It may not be a fancy building but it's a sturdy one. Parsons built it himself and remembers every single beam and nail.

Not surprising considering the materials had been in his family for decades. They came from a store owned by his grandfather almost 60 years before in Lushes Bight, a 90-minute drive out the bay.

It was a store that Parsons never knew existed.

"I went down and took it apart, every single board, brought it home on the roof of the car," said Parsons. "I brought it back here and put it all back together."

"I would have brought it up on my back if I never had the car. That's how much focus and determination I had."

The museum's collection boasts thousands of marine and naval artifacts as well as ordinary items such as biscuit tins, bottles of liniment and old-fashioned weigh scales.

There might be dust on them now but there is certainly none on the memories and reverence Parsons gives to each and every one.

Becoming famous

The museum was a destination for visitors from all over the globe. He admits that it became more about their stories than any of his own.

"I purposely never labelled anything so they would ask questions," said Parsons. "Then we'd get into a conversation and they'd tell me their life stories."

The museum gained popularity over the years but things really ramped up after a visit from Pauline Thornhill and the crew of CBC's Land & Sea. They filmed in the museum about eight years ago. 

"Pauline said to me, 'You might become famous,'" reflected Parsons. "So all these girls were interested in me because I had a museum. They figured I was rich."

It was a double-edged sword.

"It led me into some unusual and bizarre relationships that took me all over Newfoundland and up on the mainland. I'm finally now just recovered from all that."

In the end, the attention became a bit much for Parsons. He bolted the doors to his museum not long after the Land & Sea segment aired. He says he craved his privacy again and some of his old life back.

Since then, he has been approached by collectors and television shows like Canadian Pickers. He has said no to all of them.

As for the future of the museum, Parsons says he has considered reopening its doors or even selling the collection to a single buyer. 

Until then, he says he will reminisce about his almost 35 years in Springdale and the museum that once was.

"It would have never happened without the museum," said Parsons. "So, it was a journey."

"I always wanted to travel the world. I didn't do it but the world travelled to me."