The year was 1965: the Caraquet Chamber of commerce was brainstorming on themes to develop within the tourism industry, and one of the ideas that was put forward was the creation of an Acadian historical site, much like those of Port-Royal and Grand-Pré who showcased buildings dating back to the 18th century.
In 1969, the Village acadien Committee was formed, and it proceeded to a feasibility study which lead to the project that was presented to the province’s Department of Historic Resources. In 1971, the government finally announced that the historical site would be built in the Greater Caraquet area and the following year, a $300,000 budget was granted to hire a furniture curator and start groundwork on the site.
In the meantime, the artefact-gathering process was launched in various regions of New Brunswick. The first step was to establish a detailed list of required material to efficiently run the site as well as a plan to acquire the needed objects.
From the start, the acquisition process was to build the collection one step at a time, meaning that the specific needs of each building had to be determined before searching for the pieces. However, seeing as time was of the essence, changes had to be made to the acquisition process. The entire acquisition policy had to be revised and was reoriented towards building an artefact collection linked to the material civilization of New Brunswick’s Acadian community dating back to the 18th century, instead of searching for specific pieces meant for specific buildings. With these changes, the Village historique acadien gained more leeway for gathering the artefacts needed to ensure the site’s daily operations, and in the process acquired and stored an impressive number of antique pieces. This collection therefore enabled the Village’s team to pick and choose what was to be used, make quick changes when needed, and allow more flexibility regarding the buildings’ furnishing in terms of choice and layout.
It took quite a team to bring the Village historique acadien from dream to reality: historians, curators, managers and skilled craftsmen searched and worked tirelessly. Moreover, buildings had to be selected, studied, disassembled, transported, to finally be rebuilt on the site and restored by the Village’s teams.
After four years of hard work and dedication, the Village historique acadien was inaugurated on June 28, 1977. At the time, the Village was composed mainly of 18th century Acadian farming and commercial complexes, and every building had been found and brought from various Acadian areas of New Brunswick. In total, seventeen historical complexes were unveiled to the public on opening day.
However, the Village historique acadien’s development didn’t stop there. Between the late 1970s and the early 1980s, many more buildings were added to the site, such as the Thériault House, the Riordon Mill, the Cormier Woodworking Shop, and the printing shop. Finally, in 2001, an entirely new section of the Village was unveiled: set in the 20th century, it allowed visitors to experience a new variety of buildings, namely a cooper’s workshop, a hotel, a tinsmith’s shop as well as other more modern houses. Since then, other buildings have made their way onto the site, such as the Irving Gas Station, a sawmill, the Thériault General Store, and a train station.
Would like to know more about the Village historique acadien’s creation, learn details about its history, maybe get a behind-the-scenes look, or even learn about the ups and downs of its first twenty years of operation? In 2017, our resident historian Philippe Basque published Histoire du Village historique acadien du Nouveau-Brunswick : Des origines à nos jours, available for online purchase, in bookstores, and through the New Brunswick Public Library network.