NSM Currents - February 2019

February 28, 2019

NSM Currents - February 2019

Letter from the Director

In this second edition of Currents we are focusing on NSM work that celebrates innovation and creativity. This is an area of work that excites me because we have excellent examples of NSM projects relating to it. I'm confident you will be inspired when you read about how we can help change lives by building small boats, about how museum objects can be part of a fresh and exciting presentation of Mi'kmaq artistry and how the museum's technical wizardry can reproduce an ancient tree trunk. These are just a few examples of using museum collections and knowledge in creative and innovative ways. Each has generated considerable media interest and help raise awareness of how museums matter and can play a vital role in today's society.

As well, February being African Heritage Month, it is fitting that our featured new acquisition is an exciting addition to the NSM African Nova Scotian collection. Special thanks to assistant curator, Lisa Bower, for her determination to secure this lovely, emotive piece. The patience and long hours required to secure this artifact is an interesting story in itself. I encourage you to read Lisa's blog which provides detailed information about the sampler demonstrating its significance and why it is an important acquisition for the provincial collection.

I also want to thank those readers who have been in touch regarding our first issue. We are interested in your feedback or in any contributing stories you want to share. Happy reading!

Stephanie Smith, Director, Nova Scotia Museum

Culture Action Plan Update - Theme 2: Promote Creativity and Innovation

Eamonn Doorly (Master Boatbuilder, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic),boat building workshop

Inaugural Canadian Conference: Teaching with Small Boats

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (MMA) and Mount Saint Vincent University (Child and Youth Studies Department), hosted the first Canadian conference of the Teaching with Small Boats Alliance, in November 2018. It was a full-day of networking, workshops, presentations -- and, believe it or not, two Bevin Skiffs (small row boats) were built! The focus was developing ideas on how the experience of building boats can change lives. It is the MMA's hope to re-connect with participants to plan a community build-a-boat weekend at various NSM sites this summer.

Roger Lewis (Curator of Ethnology, NSM) and Kayla Rutterham (Naturalist, Museum of Natural History), led a workshop

Inspired by NSM Ethnology Collection – Ketu' elmita'jik Exhibit at AGNS

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's current exhibit Jordan Bennett: Ketu' elmita'jik (they want to come home) features artifacts from the NSM's ethnology collection. Over the past year, Bennett met with Roger Lewis (Curator of Ethnology, NSM) to discuss Mi'kmaq objects in the museum’s collection. Bennett's objective was to expand on the patterns and iconography to produce large murals. Roger Lewis describes the exhibit as an interesting and unique contemporary interpretation of old Mi'kmaq commodity art, which puts the humanity back into the museum pieces. The show runs until March 31st.

300-Million-Year-Old Joggins Fossil Tree Stump Gets 2019 Treatment

Members of the NSM Collections Unit have been working with the Joggins Fossil Institute and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to facilitate the loan and exhibit of a fossilized tree stump for the ROM's new Dawn of Life gallery. The project has involved a broad team, produced positive social media for Joggins, and a CBC news story. The reproduction of this stump exemplifies creativity and innovation as the museum staff of the NSM, Joggins Fossil Institute, and the ROM work with museum technicians and creative digital entrepreneurs to create physical and augmented reality reproductions of the stump.

Museum Makers

Featured Team: MNH Archaeology and Ethnology Gallery Renewal Team

The Museum of Natural History's (MNH) Archaeology and Ethnology gallery renewal team is working closely with a Mi'kmaw Advisory Group comprised of artists, youth and leaders around the Maritime region. They are excited to be starting the concept design phase facilitated by the award-winning exhibition planning and design firm, Bouwdesign. The Advisory Group will determine the overall exhibit approach and are committed to presenting a dynamic culture that continues to shape Nova Scotia's collective identity. The Mi'kmaq Advisory Group includes: Pam Glode-Desrochers (Executive Director of the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre), Ron Knockwood (Grand Chief of the Mainland District Grand Council), Ray Sewell (Saint Mary's University Indigenous Student Advisor) Jordan Bennett (Mi'kmaq Artist, Shortlisted 2018 Sobeys Art Award), Ursula Johnson (Mi'kmaq Artist, 2017 Sobey's Art Award winner), Eldon Paul (Law Student, Dalhousie University), Dr. Bernie Francis (Mi'kmaq Linguist), Matt Meuse Dallien (GIS Technician, NSM), and Kyla Rudderdam (Interpreter, MNH).The gallery renewal team members are: Laura Bennett (Manager of Collections, NSM), John Kemp (Manager, MNH), Roger Lewis (Curator of Ethnology, NSM), Katie Cottreau-Robins (Curator of Archaeology, NSM), Stephanie Smith (Director, NSM), and Christine Sykora (Manager of Interpretation, NSM).

Featured Staff: Emma Lang, Assistant Curator/Registrar at Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic new Assistant Curator/Registrar started this fall. Since childhood, Emma has been fascinated by how the sea and the role played by fishermen and whalers in connecting the farthest corners of the earth. The travel of fishermen echoes Emma's experience with museum work. Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, she has an MA in Museum Studies from the George Washington University. She has worked at heritage institutions as different as the Shetland Museum and Archive, National Museum of American History, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Los Angeles Maritime Museum, and the William F. Coaker Heritage Foundation. Most recently, Emma was a graduate student in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, studying the history and culture of the fishery.

Museum Partnerships

Fall 2018 has seen some unique partnerships with NSM sites.

  • Ross Farm Museum is hosting an exhibit to mark the 40th anniversary of the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia. The display, Celebrating Beginnings, features over 50 pieces including several pieces from Original Guild members.
  • Museum of Industry has created an exciting partnership with Pictou County Safe Harbour, a volunteer refugee resettlement group based in New Glasgow. This past October, 5 Syrian families, consisting of 18 people, arrived in Pictou County on short notice. To prepare to handle the logistics and needs, Safe Harbour hired a newcomer resettlement coordinator, for whom the Museum of Industry has provided a work station.
  • Museum of Natural History, working with Autism Nova Scotia, has started offering sensory-friendly experiences on the first Sunday of each month. The first event was February 3rd during the opening week of Dinosaurs Unearthed. It included reduced lighting and sound, sensory-friendly sitting areas, and a social narrative to support visitors.

Who to Grab Coffee With

Museum staff always have great stories. If you have a chance, grab a coffee with these folks to find out more about what they have been doing.

  • Katherine MacLeod (Manager of Interpretation, HV) and Rodney Chaisson (Director, HV) of Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village to hear about their trip to Northern Ireland to attend the Museum Association (UK) conference entitled Dissent. They learned about the work being done in the United Kingdom around museums and social impact, and were able to visit several heritage sites around Ireland.
  • Laura Bennett (Manager of Collections, NSM) and Mary MacDonald (Curator of Interpretation, MNH) to discuss their work with staff at natural history museums across Canada to develop a national biodiversity exhibit and program for 2020. Mary and Laura recently returned from Vancouver where they spent two days workshopping ideas for an innovative project proposal that will see museums across Canada simultaneously deliver an exhibit and youth forum.
  • Roger Lewis (Curator of Ethnology, NSM) freshly returned from The Entangled Gaze: A Knowledge-Exchange Workshop in Haida Gwaii. This workshop brought together scholars, curators, elders, and students from Canada and the US to exchange perspectives on the topic of Indigenous artistic presentation of non-Indigenous, settler, and Euro-American foreigners in the period of early contact to present day.

Raise a Glass!

Congratulations are extended to:

  • Amy Coleman (Maritime Museum of the Atlantic) and Earl Buffett (Nova Scotia Museum) for winning Minister's Awards for individual achievement
  • Elizabeth Cromwell (Board member, Black Loyalist Heritage Society), Order of Nova Scotia recipient,
  • Museum of Natural History for winning Silver in the Coast's Best of Halifax 2018 museum category

Welcome to new NSM staff:

  • Sean Haughian - Curator of Botany, Nova Scotia Museum
  • Vanessa Smith - Assistant Curator of Archeology, Nova Scotia Museum
  • Selina Kemp - YCW Building Careers in Heritage Marine Curatorial Intern
  • Richard Larin - Director, Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse / Historic Acadian Village of Nova Scotia
  • Peter Cullen - Director, Ross Farm Museum

Retirements and Departures:

  • Roger d'Entremont - Director, Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse / Historic Acadian Village of Nova Scotia
  • Lisa Wolfe - Director, Ross Farm Museum

Does your NSM site have a staff announcement? Won an award? Let us know so we can include it in the next edition of NSM Currents. NovaScotiaMuseum@novascotia.ca

In Memorium:

  • Jim (Seumas) Watson, Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village's Manager of Interpretation - Jim led the Village's Gaelic program for almost 35 years. Since the Highland Village joined the Nova Scotia Museum in 2000, Jim has been instrumental in the development and growth of the Village's first-person cultural experiences and community outreach.
  • Eldon George, Fossil Collector - George was a renowned rock hunter whose enthusiasm for fossils and minerals earned him international recognition. He donated approximately 1,500 fossils to the Fundy Geological Museum when he closed his Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop in 2015.
  • Mike Oddy, Model Maker - Mike was a longtime volunteer at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. His diorama of the Halifax Dock Yards in 1800, on display at the museum, was a personal project that took over 20 years.


Image Courtesy of

The Nova Scotia Museum image collection is used by researches, publishers, businesses, and other museums (to name of few). This is recent request shows African Nova Scotian vendors selling ferns, cucumbers, and squash, in baskets, at a Halifax market. Credit - Nova Scotia Museum, Cultural History Collection, 78.15

Digging Deeper: New Research - Coastal Erosion Impact on Archaeological Sites

What began as a Match.CCH opportunity for Lori Churchill with Katie Cottreau-Robins (Curator of Archaeology, NSM) looking at coastal erosion impacts on archaeological sites and engaging the community through a public archaeology dig at Fort Saint-Louis, has led to a multi-year project. Lori is the departmental lead in the creation of a climate change adaptation strategy for CCH in partnership with Nova Scotia Environment's Climate Change Unit who have secured project funding through NRCan. Some of NSM staff will remember Lori from her past role as manager of the heritage promotion team.

First Glimpse at a New Acquisition

This embroidered sampler is an exciting recent acquisition to the NSM's Cultural History collection. It is a rare example of this traditional schoolgirl art form attributed to the 19th century African Nova Scotian population through Halifax's African School (1836 - c.1858). Samplers are needlework pictures featuring hand embroidered motifs including the alphabet, numbers, verses, buildings or houses and were used in the education of girls. The tradition of sampler making was brought to the colonies by settlers from Great Britain and Europe and is most commonly associated with the instruction of white girls. The NSM has over 80 samplers in its collection, but to date, none of them have been attributed to African Nova Scotian makers and we are not aware of any in other museum collections throughout the province or country.

Hot off the Press

The museum is always finding new ways to share its information beyond exhibits and programs, such as these new resources.

  • NSM Collections Staff, including Katie Cottreau-Robins (Curator of Archaeology, NSM) and Martin Hubley (Curator of History, NSM), are working with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs to develop a symposium in Beechville on February 23. Presentations on the recent historical and archaeological research will take place and then an afternoon of workshops. Staff are looking forward to the direction community members will provide regarding the historic archaeological and cultural landscape in Beechville.
  • The team at the Maritime Museum is delighted about the restoration work that is currently underway with CSS Acadia. The extensive work will bring the historic ship back to a state that will inspire pride in the province's marine heritage, enhance the waterfront, and result in new opportunities for memorable visitor experiences.
  • Nova Scotia Museum sites have been working with Historic Nova Scotia to share new and existing museum content. The website and app are being led by Dalhousie University and allows historical stories and images to be linked on an interactive GPS map. Recent stories have included profiles from the exhibit Vanguard: 150 years of Remarkable Nova Scotians, and new stories from Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the 80th birthday of Theresa E. Connor, a collection of recipes believed to belong to Rosina Uniacke, and updated content from Fisherman's Life Museum.

Strategic Corner

Every edition of NSM Currents will highlight a new or remind us of one existing NSM policy, procedure, or strategy.

  • Over the past year, the site operations team has been meeting with board members and directors of the 17 locally-managed NSM sites to review and respond to questions regarding the license agreement and its accompanying NSM operations manual. The license agreement is a legal agreement between the province and the museum society which outlines the responsibilities for operating a provincial museum site. This operational framework will be completed by March 31st and implemented this coming season.

From the Director's Desk

Important Dates

Opportunities to Get Involved In:

  • The NSM's travelling exhibit Vanguard: 150 Years of Remarkable Nova Scotians is available to be hosted. This exhibit profiles 32 Nova Scotians from the past 150 years whose lives exemplify innovation and change, and champion diversity. The only cost to host this 800 square foot exhibit is delivery. For more information about interpretation and scheduling contact Christine Sykora (Manager of Interpretation, NSM - (902) 424-6477 or Christine.Sykora@novascotia.ca) or for information about design and setup contact David Carter (Communication Designer, NSM - (902) 424-6417 or David.Carter@novascotia.ca)
  • Join the "Atlantic Canada Heritage Professionals" Facebook group. This networking group is for folks in any heritage field in the region (NB, NS, PEI, and NFLD) to share information, make connections, ask questions, and join in our struggles and celebrations. The administrator is Emma Lang (Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic).
  • Dinosaurs Unearthed at the Museum of Natural History and is already proving to be one of its most popular exhibits. Staff anticipate March Break might have record-breaking attendance. Volunteers are being sought to assist at the front desk (answering phones) and with line management during March Break (March 16-24). If you are interested in taking a shift or two contact Melanie Bedgood (Coordinator of Visitor Services, MNH) at (902) 424-6452 or Melanie.Bedgood@novascotia.ca

Remember These Resources:

Inspirational Idea:

  • Several NSM sites are working with Autism Nova Scotia to make their museums more sensory friendly. For insights on how museums around the world are working on this - Read more on MuseumNext.

Next Time in NSM Currents:

  • Exploring Culture Action Plan "Theme 3: Strengthen Education, Partnerships, and Understanding"
  • New Primary-Grade 1 science school program to be released for all sites as part of "Toolbox for Museum School Programs"


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