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Museum (summer) (larger version)
Built in 1915, the White Elephant was once part of the Moravian Mission station which was established in Makkovik in 1896. The building was meant to serve as a boarding school. However, over the years it has been used for many purposes. The school and dormitory were soon moved to the manse (missionary's house), which was very large. Then this smaller building became the nursing home but did not get a great deal of use as such. Since it was rarely used for its original intent, but still required maintenance, the building was often referred to as the "White Elephant" and the name has stuck. (Artifacts, Archaeological Activity, James R. Andersen Sr. Photos, Other Historic Sites, Historic Music Notes)

As the dispensary/nursing home, it was the place used by midwives to deliver babies of settler women from nearby fishing stations. Several local women were often called upon for this service. Susan Andersen (1914-2000) delivered fifty babies in her lifetime.

The missionaries wore many hats. They were ministers, traders, law officers, social workers, and gave medical attention. Their only medical training was usually a nine-month course, but many settler families were grateful for the services provided by the Moravian Mission. Many a toothache has been remedied thanks to the missionary! In the 1940's one of the missionaries attempted an emergency operation (minor surgery). The operation was not successful and a teenage girl died. Could this be the source of the rumor that the White Elephant is haunted?
Museum (winter) (larger version)
After Confederation in 1949, which brought compulsory schooling, more families settled permanently in Makkovik. Prior to that, at festival times, Christmas and especially Easter ( when traveling conditions were better), families traveled to Makkovik from outlying fishing stations such as Ben's Cove, Seal Cove, Lance Ground, Adlavik, etc. to take part in the church services and community events. They sometimes found lodging at the White Elephant. In latter years, it was rented out to various tenants.

In 1996 the community celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Moravian Church in Makkovik. At that time, Gary Mitchell and the Centennial Committee, decided to convert the White Elephant into a museum. With full community support, it became the perfect display location for family relics and antiques. Today it houses over two hundred artifacts which have been donated or loaned by residents of the community. Items include fishing and hunting gear, old photos, kitchen utensils, tools, family Bibles, traditional clothing, mission diaries, and much more.
In December 2000, the White Elephant was officially designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. http://heritagefoundation.ca/property-search/property-details-page.aspx?id=1526

The museum has a committee of volunteers who will give tours upon request. During the summer months, a student is hired through funding secured by the Nunatsiavut Government. This makes it possible to open the museum from Monday to Friday and whenever the passenger boat (Northern Ranger) arrives.

Along with the community museum venture, the committee has had the opportunity to lend its support to archaeologist Dr. Stephen Loring from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for a dig that was carried out at Long Tickle (Adlavik Islands), about an hour south of Makkovik by boat. Dr. Loring and his assistant, Leah Rosenmeier, and students hired locally, have found the remains of several Inuit sod houses from the early 1700's. It is intended that some artifacts unearthed here will be housed in the White Elephant museum.

Thanks to the research done by Dr. Hans Rollmann, Professor of Religious Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in 2001 an archaeological dig was conducted at Ford's Bight, next to Makkovik harbour. This dig unearthed the remains of the first Moravian Mission house built in Labrador, by Johann Christian Erhardt in 1752. This site currently remains covered, awaiting future development.

A restoration of the White Elephant began in August of 2002, thanks to funding received through the Canada/Newfoundland Comprehensive Economic Development Agreement and a grant from the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Five historical panels with text by Dr. Hans Rollmann are on display at the museum.

We hope you enjoy your visit to this quaint building and learn something about our Moravian roots as well as our long tradition of living off the land.

We would like to thank Joan Andersen for the above text.

If you like to learn more about the White Elephant Museum please visit the following website:


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