The marine collection of the Nova Scotia Museum at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the oldest and largest single collection of marine artifacts in Canada. The collection started in 1948 when a group of naval officers formed the Maritime Museum of Canada in Halifax. It became part of the Nova Scotia Museum in 1967 which added an even older group of marine artifacts collected by the Mechanics Institute back in the 1830s. Artifacts in the collection encompass both the technology of the sea and the social history of mariners, as well as historical representation of the sea to communities ashore. This range is embodied by objects large and small, from tiny ship models to the 200 foot steam ship CSS Acadia and from humble sailor’s knives to ship portraits and fine silverware.
The vast majority of artifacts have been donated through the generosity of Nova Scotians. These donors have shaped the collection for years by selecting the maritime museum as the place to preserve their family’s connection to the sea. In recent times the museum has worked to more actively shape the collection by filling gaps and identifying new areas for collection. The focus of the collection is Nova Scotia, that is objects connected to the sea that were made or used by Nova Scotians, but many aspects of the collection are nationally and internationally significant due to the global nature of shipping and Nova Scotia’s lead role in Canadian seafaring.