This week I’m at the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When I attend international events such as this, I’m always struck by the enthusiasm and passion for historical records and research, which seems to unite both archivists and researchers the world over.
At this conference, Ancestry launched a new partnership with Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) which made the Nova Scotia Birth, Marriage and Death records available to Ancestry’s customers around the world. It’s been a great opportunity to discover some of the fascinating history of this beautiful place.
Last night I visited an exhibition devoted to the Halifax Explosion of 1917. The explosion occurred when munitions ship, the Mont Blanc, was struck by another vessel in Halifax harbour. The collision caused a fire, which in turn caused the crew to evacuate the ship. Without a crew the vessel drifted toward the shore and exploded with such force that almost two square miles of the city was completely devastated and almost 2000 people lost their lives instantly. The explosion was so great that windows were said to have cracked 100km away and the sound could be heard over 400km away – to this day it remains the largest accidental explosion in history.
There are incredible tales of valour from so many people and the city of Halifax is rightly proud to this day of the way it banded together and recovered from such a devastating event. Among all the documents, photographs and artefacts in the exhibition however, I was most drawn to a simple pocket watch – its hands forever frozen at four minutes past nine when their imprint was indelibly burned onto its face.
It made me think that for all the census records or BMDs we search, the newspapers we buy, the TV we watch or the books we read; sometimes a pocket watch can tell us more than any of them.