Remembering Ruth Whitehead

September 8, 2023

Remembering Ruth Whitehead

 Dr. Ruth Holmes Whitehead.

Image:  Dr. Ruth Holmes Whitehead, Order of Nova Scotia Investiture Ceremony, 2015. Photo Credit- Communications Nova Scotia.


The Nova Scotia Museum is sad to announce the passing of former Curator, Dr. Ruth Whitehead. Dr. Whitehead passed away in Halifax on August 29th, 2023.

Ruth wore many hats with the Nova Scotia Museum. She started working with the History section as a Curatorial Assistant in 1972, and was most famously the Curator of Ethnology, a position she held until her retirement in 2003. Following her retirement, Ruth was recognized as a Curator Emerita and continued to work with the Nova Scotia Museum for years as an active Research Associate. During her time at the museum, Ruth meticulously researched and documented stories of Nova Scotians, and was particularly skilled at connecting with sources and uncovering information that drove her research in new directions. Ruth was interested in disciplines beyond her own area of study, reading current journals and making connections to her own research. In her work she connected with curators across the Nova Scotia Museum and around the world, finding ways to share information and enrich scholarship conducted in Atlantic Canada.

A renowned researcher and writer, Ruth will be fondly remembered by many for her numerous publications that brought Nova Scotia’s rich history alive for countless people. Ruth authored or co-authored eighteen non-fiction books, including Nova Scotia and the Great Influenza Pandemic 1918-1920 (2020),  Black Loyalists: Southern Settlers of Nova Scotia’s First Free Black Communities (2013), Niniskamijinaqik / Ancestral Images: The Mi'kmaq in Art and Photography (2015), Micmac Quillwork (1982), The Old Man Told Us (1991) and Tracking Dr. Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper (2002). She also published numerous Curatorial Reports for the Nova Scotia Museum (available here: ).

During her career Ruth made numerous significant contributions to the Nova Scotia Museum and to our broader understanding of Nova Scotia’s history. In recognition of these contributions Ruth received many accolades including the Order of Nova Scotia, which she was awarded in 2014.


Ruth has been a respected colleague and inspiration to many at the museum and beyond. She was a catalyst for research projects on Mi’kmaq cultural history and the Black Loyalists, diligently collecting and documenting information that would lay the foundation for future work. As one colleague noted, for Ruth, it was all about the stories- the stories of those that had been hidden and oppressed and the human experiences of those living day to day in extraordinary times.

The Nova Scotia Museum would like to extend our sincere condolences to Ruth’s family and friends. She will be missed.