Monday, June 27, 2011

Museum Travels - Halifax and Annapolis Valley

This week's travels began in Halifax at the Army Museum on Citadel Hill.  Most people know that Parks Canada operates the citadel, but not everyone knows there is also a community museum on the site.  A visit to the army boys (as I affectionately call them) is always educational.  They have so many stories to share that I always leave with some new gem.  This time I heard about a certain War of 1812 raid on Washington and the adventures of two Nova Scotian brothers who took part in the burning of Washington and more specifically the White House (apologies to my American readers, but you guys did make a mess in York that required retaliation).  I won't say exactly what they did, but I'm sure the army boys would love to share the tale with you.

Don't forget to take your smartphone with you either, as there are qr codes throughout the exhibits.  Some of them explain more about a particular artifact, like the very popular Lewis Gun, while others have stories from veterans.  My personal favourite is the one about the haystacks.

West Hants Historical Museum
After Halifax I went on to Windsor and the West Hants Historical Museum.  What I love about West Hants is the focus of their collection.  It's all local, very reflective of the various industries from the town's history, and they have some really great stories behind artifacts and photos.  They also have a fantastic archives with oodles (yes, I said oodles) of genealogical information for those with Hants County roots.  It's hard to pick out favourites in such a great collections, but a few items do stand out.  One is a love letter quilt, which at first glance looks like any other quilt.  What makes it special is that a young lady sewed in her sweetheart's love letters between the fabric layers.
love letter quilt
For my New Brunswick readers, the museum has a connection to Henry More Smith, aka Frederick Moon, aka the Lunar Rogue, aka the Mysterious Stranger.  An 18th century hooligan, my hometown of Kingston was plagued by this thief and con artist who made marionettes from his straw mattress and even faked death in order to escape from the humble Kingston jail (or gaol for the more historically-minded).  Our local sheriff chased him all the way to Ontario before losing the trail, and later wrote a book about it all.  Well, it turns out that Henry (if that was his real name) married a Hants County girl and even had some kids before crossing the bay and butting heads with Sheriff Bates.

Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum
From Windsor I went on to Middleton for a 2-day workshop by the Council of Nova Scotia Archives.  Another New Brunswick connection, the workshop was held in the Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum, which used to be called Macdonald Consolidated School.  Sir William Macdonald built 5 of these schools in Eastern Canada - New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Quebec.  The premise behind the schools was that rural children required a different kind of education than city children, which meant that the schools had extensive gardens and students were taught agricultural and other practical skills.  Macdonald even paid for horse-drawn vans to pick up the kids each day.  Only one of these schools is still a school (good ol' Kingston), another is a museum, and the one in Guelph is now an arts centre.  I think Sir William would be pleased with this. 

And to bring it back to our dear friend Henry More Smith, the Kingston school was built on  top of the old jail's foundation, and in its basement you can visit the John Fisher Memorial Museum and check out the outline of the old cells.

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