The “Mummers on Trial” exhibit—scheduled for display at The Rooms during the holiday season 2023–24—is a new collaboration between The Rooms Provincial Museum & Archives and a team of faculty and students in Folklore and History at Memorial.
The project brings together the Memorial team’s research on Christmas mumming and crime in nineteenth-century Newfoundland with The Rooms’ outstanding archival collections, expertise in cultural heritage interpretation, and commitment to student mentorship.
The exhibit focuses on the case of Isaac Mercer—a young man fatally assaulted by mummers in Bay Roberts in 1860—as a lens to explore how mumming-related crime became a lightning-rod for controversy and propaganda, as well as the issues this poses for archival research.
The project addresses the recent resurgence of mumming in the province as both a folk practice and a public heritage icon. By highlighting the complexities of the custom’s history, we invite audiences to engage critically with the role of folklore and tradition in larger conversations about collective identity, public memory, and cultural representation.
We further develop these themes through a series of programs organized in conjunction with the exhibit, including a panel discussion and a “true crime”-themed archival research workshop based on the Mercer case.