Thursday, April 29, 2010

Late Victorian Men - Part 1

I adore late Victorian portraits. While I am especially fond of daguerreotypes with their ephemeral and shifting images, there is generally something about the portraits taken in the second half of the nineteenth century which appeals to me. When I was going through an album today I decided to make a few posts showing some of the interesting Victorian portraits which we have in the archival collection at the Annapolis Heritage Society. While the gentlemen have center stage today, I will make a post featuring some ladies with hooped skirts and fancy hats in the coming days.

Whenever I look at one of these images I am struck by how familiar and yet different they are. While the clothing styles are recognizable, they are decidedly not something which would be worn today. As you can clearly see in this collection of carte-de visite photographs, the hairstyles are somewhat different than those found on the street today. I especially love the hair on the gentleman in the top image and the comb-over, mutton chop, soul patch combination in the second image.

As I look at these images, I can see genuine personality if not eccentricity. I fear that as we move toward a more global world that we may be losing the eccentrics in our midst. This could be the people who have spent their entire life living in a small fishing village on the shore of the Bay of Fundy. This could equally be the artisinal cheese maker in France, the llama farmer in Peru or the salt miner in China. As we move toward a globalized, technology filled culture, we may be unknowingly losing some of the most interesting parts of the human experience.

All for now,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blossoms and Blooms

After work tonight I felt like it would be a good time to pull on my rubber boots and tromp around my property to see what is coming into bloom. Since the spring tends to be the time of year that I am running to conferences, trade shows, workshops and trying to get our three museums up and running for the season, I find that I need to remind myself to take the opportunity to look at the flowers while I can. All too often I have found myself standing in a December snowstorm wondering where the flowers have gone. While our yard is in no way comparable to the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal, I can usually find something to work into a picture or two. In this post the images are mostly broken into sets. The first two images are of a Rhododendron P.J.M., the second two are from a black cherry tree, the third two from a yellow plum and the final image is from an ash tree.

I suppose the other reason that flowers are in my thoughts today is because I am scheduled to be working at the Annapolis Royal booth at the Blooms by the Sea show in Yarmouth this weekend (April 30 - May 2). This is our opportunity to remind the folks in some of our neighbouring communities of just how much we have to offer in Annapolis Royal. I enjoyed this show in its inaugural edition last year so I am hoping for something equally pleasant this year. Three day away from home should also provide me with the opportunity to catch up with some of my friends from the Yarmouth County Museum. Although I am not sure if they have wireless in the Mariner Centre, I am sure that I will have the opportunity to make some sort of blog post from the show. If you are in Yarmouth, stop by our booth for a visit.

All for now,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hebbs Landing

Since the small Hebbs Landing site along the Annapolis River was opened a few years ago, I have always meant to stop to take a look. I often look at the small picnic park as I drive between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown, but I always seem to have a reason not to stop. At least I always seem to be able to convince myself that I have some more pressing engagement when I drive by the site. Well, this afternoon as I was driving back from an errand in Bridgetown I decided that I should stop to take a look around.

Believe it or not, my main reason for stopping was to get some photographs of the trees which are leaning into the river. I am impressed by the sheer tenacity of these trees. As if elm trees did not have enough to worry about with dutch elm disease, these poor trees have their toehold on the world literally eroding away. The trees will hang at a precarious angle for years until a storm or gravity sends them splashing into the river. It is almost like a Nova Scotia version of the sword of Damocles. There is something tragically beautiful about the way the trees cling to life in the face of a predetermined fate.

When I got out of the car and looked around, I realized that Hebbs Landing is an absolutely charming spot. The Annapolis River is an old meandering river which moves very quietly in this location. Today the water was so calm that it was acting as a mirror for the clouds and trees.

If you squint your eyes just the right way, you can almost imagine this landscape as it would have looked historically. This peaceful river would have been the primary means of transportation in the days before engines were invented. When roads were muddy and horses were expensive, it was simply easier to travel on the water. To the Mi'Kmaq this river would have been an essential part of a network of inland waterways used to move between seasonal encampments. By building dykes the Acadians were able to take advantage of the unique tidal properties of the river. They would have also used the river for transportation when their community expanded from Port Royal into the nearby settlements of Belleisle and Paradis Terrestre. Crops would have been sailed to Annapolis Royal for trade or because they were being forced to provision the garrison. The Annapolis River would have taken both Planters and Loyalists to their new homes in the middle of the county. In the Age of Sail these waters would have been navigable by vessels much larger than anyone today could imagine sailing up the river. The Annapolis River not only runs through the heart of Annapolis County, but it is at the heart of our history.

All for now,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Feeling Hectored on the Way Home

When I was driving back to Annapolis Royal from the Association of Nova Scotia Museums conference on Cape Breton Island, I decided to make a short side trip. One of the dominant stories in the Nova Scotia media over the past month has been the uncertain future of the ship Hector in Pictou. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I am enchanted by stories and images from the age of sail. Not being able to predict the future, I decided that I should stop to see the Hector while it was still available to be seen. Thankfully my travelling companion, Sherry Griffin from the Macdonald Museum in Middleton, agreed to a quick stop to stretch our legs and take some pictures. We were both glad that we did since Pictou is home to some fascinating heritage architecture in addition to a tall ship on the waterfront.

I have seen the Hector a number of times before, but I still enjoy stopping to have a look at it. It is a beautiful replica which tells an important story about Scottish settlement in Nova Scotia. The original Hector, a Dutch built fluyt, was launched sometime around 1750. In 1773, this vessel arrived with a load of Highland Scots immigrants in Pictou. This was the first of many shiploads of Scots who would make their way to Nova Scotia during the Highland clearances. Many of Nova Scotia's current residents are descended from this wave of Scottish immigration. I include myself in these descendants.

The modern images of the Hector replica (launched in 2000) show the vessel in better condition than it would have been in at the time of the original's arrival in Nova Scotia in 1773. A 23 year old vessel would have been nearing the end of its active service. When the ship arrived it had suffered through storms, dysentery, small pox and death. This version of the ship is probably more emblematic of how it looked shortly after it was launched.

Currently there is some question as to the future operations of the ship as a museum and tourist attraction. The Town of Pictou has decided that it does not have the financial ability to operate the ship. Requests and pleas have been made to various levels of government to determine if there is a source of ongoing operational funds for the Hector. I have also seen a call for tenders for potential site operators in my email in the past week. Hopefully an arrangement will be found and the replica of the Hector will continue to teach people about Scottish immigration to Nova Scotia and generate revenue for the businesses on the Pictou waterfront. If the offer would help, I would be happy to see the ship tied up in Annapolis Royal for a few months in the summer.

All for now,

Friday, April 23, 2010

ANSM Conference

For the past few days I have been attending the Association of Nova Scotia Museums' annual conference in Port Hawkesbury on Cape Breton Island. I wish that I had a bit more time to explore this corner of Cape Breton since I have not spent much time in this part of the province. In a busy couple of days I listened to some very good presentations, caught up with some friends and may have seen the museum sector in Nova Scotia striking out in a very positive new direction. While time will only tell about the positive direction, I saw some very encouraging signs. I would like to offer my thanks to the organizing committee and ANSM staff for the work that they have done in putting this conference together.

This morning was the ANSM's annual general meeting. Again this year they will be under the gentle guidance of returning President Pauline Thompson from Cape Breton. After a productive year last year I am looking forward to seeing continued strength from this group. All of the board should be thanked for their commitment and dedication to museums and heritage in Nova Scotia. Most of the new and returning board members are in the photograph at the top of this post.

There was a very unfortunate event at this year's conference. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Ned MacDonald who sadly and suddenly passed while attending the conference. While I did not know Mr. MacDonald personally, I had just heard him speak with great pride about his association with the Inverness Miners Museum. He will be missed by the museum community.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Archaeology at the Garrison Burial Grounds

As with any writing, through the history of this blog there have been some days when I have stared rather vacantly at the screen wondering what to write. On the other hand, there are days like today when the topic jumps forward fully formed and ready to be written down. I do not even need to come at this topic from a strange or obscure angle. An archaeological excavation in the middle of the Garrison Burial Grounds on St George Street is as much of an Annapolis Royal Heritage topic as I could dream of.

Earlier in the year I was told that there was going to be archaeological work going on in Garrison Burial Grounds which are located within the earthenworks at Fort Anne. The purpose of the dig was to find a location within the cemetery where a monument to the Acadian Sainte Jean Baptiste Cemetery could be mounted. For those who do not know, the Acadian cemetery is located within the larger burial grounds. Since the wooden grave markers in the Acadian section of the graveyard have long since rotted and disappeared, there was nothing to indicate where these people were buried. It is estimated that there are over 2000 burials but just over 200 stones can be found. The oldest stone, that of Bathiah Douglass, dates to 1720 which is 10 years into the British occupation of the town. Thanks to our friends at the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal there will now be a marker to indicate where the graves of the Acadian community can be found. From the drawings I have seen the monument will be a stone cross with an inscription about the historic cemetery.

Now when you are putting a monument in a historic cemetery the last thing you want to do is put it on top of someone's remains so Parks Canada archaeologist Charles Burke arrived to conduct a small dig. Sometimes in archaeology you are looking to find something but this was one of the occasions where they were hoping to find nothing. There were a couple of minutes of excitement when an object was unearthed which looked like it may be part of a human skull. Thankfully, the with a bit further digging the object turned out to be a flat whitish rock. By the end of the day it looked like the monument would be able to be located in the chosen location.

Whenever this sort of activity is going on in Annapolis Royal I am irresistibly drawn to the dig. I am allowed to flash back to my undergrad years sitting in darkened lecture halls and watching slides of digs from exotic venues from around the world. I now have a wonderful collection of images from many of the digs which have happened in and around Annapolis Royal in recent years. While it may not seem exotic to some, our community has a potential for archaeological exploration which is unparalleled in Canada.

All for now,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Road Work - Part 2

Thanks to the ongoing construction work on Lower St. George Street in Annapolis Royal, we now have a new neighbour at the O'Dell House Museum. From the looks of things, our new plastic blue and yellow neighbour is not built to last in quite the same way that the wooden buildings on the street from 1760s and 1770s were, but we will welcome the inhabitants as only we can in Annapolis Royal. While the house seems small, I must admit that I admire the placement of the house so that it can take full advantage of the beautiful forsythia bush. As an act of welcome, maybe I should wait outside and surprise someone with a freshly baked pie when they come out. I will bet that they would be surprised.

In all seriousness, construction on the street and sidewalks near the O'Dell House Museum is ongoing. While it has the tendency to make for some fairly quiet days in terms of visitors, it is nice to get the work done early in the season. If this has the added benefit of diverting some of the rain water away from the basement of the museum I will be very happy. This collection of images was taken a few days ago when the new sewer pipe was being installed. Since we had a combination of rain and snow today, the construction site was fairly quiet. Very muddy but fairly quiet.

I spent most of today speaking with three separate classes of grade 9 students at the local high school. This was my annual walk through the history of archaeological digs in the Annapolis Royal region dating back to the work done prior to the reconstruction of the Port Royal Habitation in the 1930s. One of my main messages to the students is that we live in an area of significant archaeological interest. From the thousands of years of pre-contact usage by the Mi'Kmaq and their ancestors to over 400 years of European settlement, we have some very interesting archaeological sites in our community. We are literally walking on of the beginnings of what has grown to become Canada. While it is a personal and highly biased opinion, I would say that archaeology is potentially the single greatest untapped resource in Annapolis Royal.

With this information firmly in mind, I always worry when I see construction crews working in downtown Annapolis Royal. Although much of the ground has been disturbed by previous building projects, there are still spots where undisturbed soil is being disrupted. The third image in this post is a clear example in the current dig of previously undisturbed soil on the side of the trench which was dug for the sewer pipe. At the top is a relatively mixed and sandy layer. Just below this is dark coloured layer which is more than likely contemporary with the large fires in Annapolis Royal in 1920 and 1921. After some reddish soil we find another burned layer which I would guess dates to the fire which destroyed a number of buildings in this part of town in 1877. The next dark coloured layer is further down and may be the result of some of the numerous attacks on Annapolis Royal from the 1690s to the 1740s. There is a lot of interesting information waiting to be found under the soil in Annapolis Royal.

All for now,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two New Starts

On Saturday morning members of the Annapolis Heritage Society Board of Directors gathered at the O'Dell House Museum to take a look at the property. I suppose that our purpose was to take a look at the property and see if there were any opportunities we were missing in our attempts to interpret the history of the Annapolis Royal region. Through the years much of our interpretation has been inside the museum and, as a collective, we felt that it is time to see if there are other stories to be told and other ways to tell these stories. Some of this interpretation will be done by further developing our gardens with period appropriate plants. Personally, I am hoping for a few heirloom apple trees for the yard. Other plans involve making more use of the backyard stage (which can partially be seen in the top image) and childrens programming to coincide with the Saturday morning Farmer's Market. The museum's backyard is a wonderful space and it will be interesting to see how we can make use of it.

While the morning was not particularly chilly when I left home, by the time I found myself on the Annapolis Royal waterfront I was starting to wish that I had worn a jacket.

As a final note for today, I am happy to let everyone know that I have started another blog. For those of you who have been faithful readers of this blog, please do not worry. I still enjoy the Annapolis Royal Heritage blog too much to set it aside. In fact, the new blog is in some ways supplemental to this one. The new blog, Annapolis County Headstones, will feature the artistry and history found on our local tombstones. After a great deal of thought, I have decided that the style of the posts will be very similar to the form I have established in the first few posts. Each post will have photographs of the stone and any interesting design details, a transcription and the particulars of where the stone can be found and its material. To keep the workload manageable, I am planning to only write a post or two per week with the new blog. Please have a look.

All for now,

Friday, April 16, 2010

McElligott's Pool

I suppose that this is a post about the difference between perception and reality. When I was young, we had a collection of stories by Dr Seuss. One of the stories which was read many times was called McElligott's Pool. The story opens with the image of a boy, looking for all the world like Huck Finn, sitting beside a somewhat horrible pond. He sits there quite happily with a fishing line dangling in the water which, if memory serves, is a murky gray with an old tire among other things floating on the surface. One of his elders approaches to tell him that he "is sort of a fool to sit there and fish in McElligott's Pool". Calmly, the boy rattles out a whole rhyming list of odd fish which may be waiting for the opportunity to swim into the pool.

On our property we have a small stream. The water runs down the North Mountain, crosses under our road in a culvert, cuts across the bottom corner of our land, and makes its way under another road before crossing a marsh and emptying into the Annapolis Basin. Most of the time this is a very gentle stream. It is the sort of stream which provides a lovely soothing noise when you are trying to fall asleep with the window open on warm summer nights. Occasionally, as you can see in this collection of images from February 2008, the stream becomes more of a raging torrent. On this occasion heavy rain combined with melting snow and a blocked culvert made for much or our road getting washed away. I should stress that these photographs are quite misleading for the stream looks right now. At most it would be three feet wide and maybe six inches deep in the deepest pools. Most of the stream would be much more shallow than this.

Now, to make the rest of this story make sense, I should preface it by saying that I have been working from home for the last two days. One of our children has been ill so I have been trying to catch up on some of the work I can do from home. Each day I have walked down to the corner to meet our other child as he came home on the school bus. Normally I would not be tromping up and down our road in the middle of the day. Yesterday while we were walking up the road I noticed some movement in one of the deeper pools. I only saw the motion and could not discern its source. Working from what I know of the animals who live around the stream, I assumed that it was a frog hopping away from us as we approached. Since we often find frogs in this area, I did not think about it again until I was walking down the road today.

I was a few minutes early for the bus so I decided to stop by the pool where I had seen the motion. When I looked into the water I had a great surprise. There, swimming as happily as can be, was a four inch trout. I really would not have been more stunned had a hand reached out of the water and grabbed my ankle. I suppose that I should not have been surprised, but like the elder in McElligott's Pool, I had not though this sort of thing possible in our little stream. It just seemed too small to support this sort of life. Who knows what other sort of life may be waiting there for me to discover. I really hope that some of those juggling fish from Dr Seuss show up.

On reflection, it does make sense that the trout was there. Nova Scotia is well known for trout fishing and these fish exist quite happily in the larger ponds on the North Mountain. I still do not know how the fish got there nor do I know how it will get out of this shallow stream. As I was once told, it is not for man to question the wisdom of trout.

All for now,