Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lequille: Chronicle of a Community

On Saturday (October 1, 2011) the Annapolis Heritage Society will be launching the book "Lequille: Chronicle of a Community". This book, the work of Ruth Ritchie and Denise Rice, tells the history of this community on the outskirts of Annapolis Royal through the stories of the people, buildings and interesting bits of information they have collected. I was lucky enough to see the proof copy of the book this afternoon. It is an impressive looking tome that is filled with photographs and stories. I look forward to being able to take some time to see what stories they have collected. I did notice that there was an image of a hosta in the book which I can only assume is the work of Denise who has an impressive collection of these plants.

Now, for the particulars and details. The launch will be held at Denise Rice's House (52 Cape Road) in Lequille. The event runs between 2pm and 4pm. Copies of the book will be available at the launch for a cost of $20.00. After the launch the book will be available at the O'Dell House Museum.

The image in today's post is the engraving of the General's Bridge in Lequille by William Bartlett. Very generally speaking, the General's Bridge was near St. Alban's Church in Lequille. The engraving shows a Mi'Kmaq encampment with the bridge in the background.

All for now,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Anyone who has ventured down Annapolis Royal's St George Street in the last few months has doubtlessly seen the ongoing restoration work at the Sinclair Inn Museum. Our 301 year old building has already received a new cedar roof. After some needed repairs to siding shingles and clapboard, the building is currently getting a fresh coat of stain. When I was looking at the staging (scaffolding) that the work crew had set up around the building it reminded me that there is an interesting archival image of a painting crew at work on the Queen Anne Inn (aka William Ritchie House, aka St Andrews Boys School). After a few minutes of searching, I found the image I was looking for.

Interestingly, this image only shows the top two storeys of this impressive building. It almost creates a false impression that the workers are not particularly high off of the ground. Considering they are working with a motley assortment of wooden ladders and ropes held in place with a block and tackle, they are much higher off the ground than I would find comfortable. What I find fascinating about this image is that it clearly shows the techniques used to get a painting crew up to the top levels of this building. This image comes from the Schaffner collection held by the AHS Archives. While we do not have an exact date, I believe that this image was taken circa 1925.

All for now,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Children's Printmaking Workshop

Today was the day of the final children's art workshop at North Hills Museum for this season. After having the opportunity to paint portraits and sculpt clay busts earlier in the summer, today was a day of printmaking. Instructor Wayne Smith gathered the children in the museum so they could see a few examples of prints in the North Hills collection. After a short chat about how etchings and wood cut prints were made in the museum were made, we retired to the studio (garage) to get to work on our own prints. Wayne demonstrated to the children (and parents) what we would be doing. He then gave us the task of finding an item on the museum grounds that we could draw. At this point, children scattered to locations around the property so they could find something to draw. After about 20 minutes, and a few flying chestnuts at the front of the museum later, we reconvened in the studio.

When we managed to get everyone gathered and sitting, Wayne showed us how to transfer the images onto a thin styrofoam sheet. These sheets became our engraved printing plates. When this phase was finished we brought out the paint. Considering the number of children running around with paint, this was very controlled chaos. The children each got to roll and press their images six times. There were more than a few ooohs and ahhhs as the prints were revealed. All of the children seemed to have a great time.

If you would like to see some of the artwork created during these sessions, there will be a display at ArtsPlace in Annapolis Royal from October 2 until October 8.

All for now,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Winged Heads in the Garrison Burial Grounds

Earlier this week I had some time to take a walk around the perimeter of Fort Anne with my daughter. An active three year old, she quite enjoyed the opportunity to run up and down the ramparts. As we made the turn around the Courthouse and started heading back to where we started, her attention was drawn to the Garrison Burial Grounds. Through the years I have grown to appreciate cemeteries and the various historical treasures that can be found there. Lest there be any confusion, I mean the treasures above ground in the form of artistic tombstones and information. I am not big on the whole disturbing the dead concept.

I was quick to agree to a walk through the burial grounds when she asked if we "could go see those things". I figured that this would be a good chance to chat about graveyards and also to possibly get a few pictures. As often happens, I was drawn to the winged heads or soul effigies that are found in this burial ground. As a side note, my campaign to get people to call these flying deadheads has not gained much traction. These symbols are spread through many of the early cemeteries in Nova Scotia but, there is such a rich collection at Fort Anne that I figured that I should take the opportunity to collect a few images.

The oldest soul effigy in this burial ground is found on the stone of Bathiah Douglass who died in 1720. This stone, featured at the top o this post, is also the oldest grave stone found in Nova Scotia. The original winged death heads were a bit more gruesome than the later ones. The early ones feature a skull with the eyes blanked out and teeth frozen in a perpetual grin. By the 1760s the image becomes somewhat softer with the face of a cherub replacing the skull. While I like both varieties, I generally find the early ones more engaging.

Now, what do they represent? There are actually a number of concepts at work with the winged death head. One of their primary purposes is to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death. They are a reminder that death can come quickly. The heads are also a symbol of the soul mounting toward heaven.

This is not a complete collection of the winged death heads at the Garrison Burial Grounds. Some of the stones have been damaged by ice through the years and have lost their faces. These parts are stored in the museum at Fort Anne. I also ran into the problem of my walking companion getting impatient with how slowly I was taking pictures. Oh well, a good excuse for a future trip.

All for now,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Whale Oil Cauldron

Why is it that whenever I am smitten with an artifact that they tend to be really large, heavy metal objects. Another thing that they have in common is that many of the items are remnants of the age of sail. While it is odd, I will freely admit that I have admired a number of different anchors through the years. While there is something about the durability of these objects that appeals to me, it is probably more the romance of the age of sail. These are tangible links to the sailing ships which once frequented the waters around Nova Scotia. Knowing this, I was not at all surprised that a large metal cauldron caught my attention.

A few weeks ago the metal cauldron shown in this post appeared in front of the Traditional Marine Outfitters store on St George Street in Annapolis Royal. While it may not appear to be particularly large in the photograph, the cauldron has about a five foot diameter. This is a large pot that would be an excellent prop in any production of Macbeth. Immediately as I drove by I knew what this was not a cauldron used for on stage witchcraft but a very different sort of vessel. I Stopped into the store to confirm my thoughts.

While Nova Scotia currently has an active eco-tourism market in whale watching, we have not always been so friendly to these aquatic mammals. The lady at the store confirmed that this was a cauldron used in the whaling industry on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Large chunks of blubber were put into pots like these so the fat could be rendered into whale oil. While I am sure that the whale population is happiest that this type of pot is a thing of the past, it still makes for a fascinating artifact.

All for now,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Covering up the Past

We have had an interesting summer at the Sinclair Inn Museum.  Those who have wandered up St. George Street have doubtlessly seen the scaffolding along the parking lot side of the building.  This has been in place to allow the roof to get a fresh new batch of cedar shingles installed.  As the season goes along, you will also notice some other aspects of this project as rotten clapboard and shingles are replaced, wooden windows are restored and the whole place gets a fresh coat of paint.  This is a lot of work just to make our building look old again.

One of the parts of the project that may have been missed by the general public was the removal of a layer of silt in the basement.  This silt had accumulated over time and was causing some drainage problems in the basement.  When the silt was removed (about 30-50cm deep) we discovered some very interesting things.  Buried under the silt was a series of wooden sleepers.  The wood was wet but otherwise in good condition.  Wondering what we were dealing with we sent a section of the wood to Mount Allison University for Dendrochronology testing.  The date of the wood came back as 1708 which is contemporary with the construction of the Soullard (front) section of the building.  Perhaps even more interesting than the wooden sleepers was a burned section (seen as gray in these images) below the sleepers.  This section included a few interesting things like burned roofing slate.  Were these the remains of a building that predates the Sinclair Inn?

Since we do not currently have the budget to do a proper archaeological investigation of this burned layer, a decision was made to recover the basement with a new layer of soil to protect the wooden sleepers and any other artifacts near the surface.  I suppose that calling our infill a layer of soil is too simple.  First there was a layer of landscaping fabric laid down to mark the level that was untouched.  This was followed by a layer of sand and a layer of sand mixed with bentonite.  This should create an anaerobic barrier which will protect the artifacts which will be excavated at some point in the future.

Today I also reconfirmed that those who dig in the ground can sometimes have an intriguing sense of humour. When we lit the basement to take some final photographs I learned that one of our crew had left a partially exposed plastic skull in the basement all summer.  I wonder how many tourists discovered this skull through the summer.You can see it in the top image.

All for now,