Our History

Earth’s Geological Showcase

The vision for the Johnson Geo Centre was developed by Paul Johnson and the Johnson Family Foundation, to highlight the unique and remarkable geological features of Newfoundland and Labrador as “Earth’s Geological Showcase.” While the Foundation has initiated many projects to preserve and enhance Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique nature, history, and culture, the Geo Centre is one of its most ambitious initiatives. The Johnson Family Foundation contributed over half of the $11-million initial investment, with other contributions coming from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Human Resources Development Corporation (HRDC), and the Canada Millennium Partnership Program.

The opening of the Johnson Geo Centre in 2002 was preceded by more than four years of research, planning, design, and construction. A natural rock basin that was originally filled with peat, covering glacial till and boulders was excavated, and the Centre constructed to fit within over 500 linear feet of exposed rock walls. The resulting world-class geological museum provides an exceptional experience for all residents of, and visitors to, St. John’s and the entire province.


Memorial University 

In 2019, the Johnson Geo Centre Foundation donated the infrastructure and assets of the Centre to Memorial University. The Johnson Geo Centre is now a proud member of the university community, as part of Signal Hill Campus, with operations falling under the Office of Public Engagement.

Then president of Memorial, Dr. Gary Kachanoski said of the gift, "As a public university serving the public good, Memorial University is pleased to enable the continuing operation of the Johnson Geo Centre, an important educational and tourism attraction in the St. John’s area. The Johnson Geo Centre aligns well with the university’s teaching and learning, research, and public engagement mandate, and will be a valuable complement to the university’s Botanical Garden and Signal Hill Campus, particularly the Emera Innovation Exchange conference centre there.”


Why Newfoundland and Labrador?

This province is unique. No other easily-reached place on the planet has a geological record that so fully reveals the history of the Earth, going back almost to its birth over 4.5 billion years ago. In the North of Labrador, the Province’s oldest rocks are dated at 3.87 billion years of age, amongst the oldest discovered anywhere on Earth. The rocks of Signal Hill are 550 million years old —100 million years older than the eastern Appalachian Mountains, and over 400 million years older than the western Rocky Mountains!