Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
History and museums
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a Canadian maritime museum located in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a member institution of the Nova Scotia Museum and is the oldest and largest maritime museum in Canada with a collection of over 30,000 artifacts including 70 small craft and a steamship: the CSS Acadia, a 180 foot steam-powered hydrographic survey ship launched in 1913.
The museum was founded in 1948. It was first known as the Maritime Museum of Canada and located at HMC Dockyard, the naval base on Halifax Harbour. Several naval officers served as volunteer chairs of the museum until 1959 when Niels Jannasch was hired as the museum's founding director, serving until 1985. The museum moved through several locations over the next three decades before its current building was constructed in 1981 as part of a waterfront redevelopment program. The museum received the CSS Acadia in 1982. Today the museum is part of the Nova Scotia Museum system.
The Museum was one of the first attractions to open on the redeveloped Halifax Waterfront. Its location provides the museum with several piers and boatsheds, as well as a strategic view of the Halifax Harbour looking seaward towards the Harbourmaster office and Georges Island and across to Dartmouth. Among its facilities is the restored 1880s Robertson Store ship chandler building, as well as modern exhibit galleries in the Devonian Wing (the modern museum building). HMCS Sackville, a World War II Flower-class corvette is docked adjacent to the museum in the summer months but is not owned or administered by the museum.
In addition to the over 30,000 artifacts, the museum also has a collection of 30,000 photographs as well as a large collection of charts and rare books. A reference library, open to the public, is named after the Museum's founding director, The Niels Jannasch Library. The museum has Canada's largest collection of ship portraits including the oldest ship portrait in Canada as well as a large collection of ship models including the original production models of the television show Theodore Tugboat. Ongoing restoration of Whim, a 1937 C-Class sloop can be found in one of the boatsheds on the wharf behind the museum. In addition to this current restoration project, the boatsheds house some of the museum's small craft collection. During the summer months three boats in the working small craft collection can be found moored next to CSS Acadia.
Public galleries include the Days of Sail, the Age of Steam, Small Craft, the Canadian Navy, the Halifax Explosion, and Shipwrecks. A special permanent exhibit explores the sinking of RMS Titanic with an emphasis on Nova Scotia's connection to recovering the bodies of Titanic victims. The museum has the world's foremost collection of wooden artifacts from Titanic, including one of the few surviving deck chairs. The Titanic exhibit also includes a child's pair of shoes which helped identify Titanic's "unknown child" as Sidney Leslie Goodwin. The Age of Steam gallery includes a special display on Samuel Cunard, the Nova Scotian who created the Cunard Line. The restored 1880s Robertson building includes the fully restored Robertson ship chandlerly which features hands on foghorns, ropes and ship fittings.
The Navy gallery includes the "Convoy Exhibit" about the Battle of the Atlantic which includes the Canadian Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance. Monuments to the Canadian and Norwegian Merchant Navy are located just outside the museum along with a unique children's playground in the shape of a submarine.
The museum also has a changing exhibits gallery. A 2009 exhibit Ship of Fate: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis was the first Canadian exhibit to explore the 1939 voyage of the Jewish refugee ship MS St. Louis. The Museum became the first museum in North America to present an exhibit about the lives of gay seafarers in 2011 when it presented Hello Sailor: Gay Life on the Ocean Waves, adapted from an exhibit developed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, England. The 2012 exhibit explores the experiences of the cable ships based in Halifax who recovered most of the victims of the RMS Titanic sinking.
The corvette HMCS Sackville (K181) is not part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic but is located adjacent to the museum in the summer and works with the museum to interpret the Royal Canadian Navy.
The museum's striking location on the Halifax waterfront has made the Museum the site of several significant public events. In addition to being a stop on most Canadian federal election campaigns, the museum hosted meetings from the 1995 G7 Summit, as well a September 11 commemorative event in 2006 attended by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay and United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. The Museum hosts an annual commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic on the first Sunday of every May and Canadian Merchant Navy day every September 3.