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History in the making – Old Court House Museum celebrates 50th anniversary

  • May 31 2023
  • By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – Home to thousands of stories, the Old Court House Museum in Guysborough is celebrating a special anniversary this year. Operated by the Guysborough Historical Society (GHS), the museum marks 50 years in 2023. Over the decades, the museum has become not only a font of information about community history but also a genealogical research hub, a visitor information centre and the source for unique books related to the history of Guysborough and surrounding areas.

GHS President Chris Cook spoke to The Journal last week about the landmark anniversary, the mission of the museum and its role in the community.

“It’s a historical event for a historical society,” he said of the anniversary. “It speaks to the community support, the dedication of our volunteers and staff…it is a wonderful milestone for a cultural organization such as the Old Court House Museum.”

He added, “It’s with a lot of pride, we celebrate this anniversary. We hope to continue to have more to do in the future.”

Cook has been actively involved with the GHS – which is celebrating its 60th anniversary – and the museum for most of his adult life, starting off as a summer student when he was in his early twenties.

As for what the museum adds to the life of the community, Cook said, “Organizations such as ours play a very important part in educating the community and the people coming in and moving here as to what the community was about and who its people were…We represent everyone, all the various populations in the area.”

The museum, Cook pointed out, has displays, artifacts and research materials relating to the diverse cultures found in the area. He told The Journal that the GHS has worked to be inclusive of all historical settlement groups: Indigenous, African Nova Scotia and Acadian.

The reach of the museum far surpasses what visitor numbers may indicate. With the connectivity of the Internet, the museum has been in contact with a global community of people interested in the history of Guysborough.

Cook added, “With COVID there’s been a tremendous interest in one’s history. And we’ve had a lot of requests from people all over the world doing research. It’s been quiet fascinating.”

The Old Court House Museum itself is an artifact. Built in 1843, the GHS has strived to maintain it in partnership with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

Other artifacts that people connected to the community have entrusted to the museum are also well-cared for.

Cook said, “That’s a big responsibility that we don’t take lightly.”

Along with the challenge of maintaining the artifact collection and a building nearing its second century, Cook said, in his experience, one of the biggest challenges for the museum has been recruitment and retention of volunteers.

He said, “Every organization in rural Canada is going through that; in places where there is outmigration and population decline…and also the core funding to museums has not changed much at all in a very long time.”

That being said, the GHS is excited about the future of the museum and this year’s 50th anniversary.

“We have a variety of things planned to celebrate that,” Cook said.

Planned activities include a raffle on a basket of local history books valued at $300, a birthday party on July 29 and the publication of a new book on local history this fall. In addition, the GHS is moving to create more community partnerships to further their mission to preserve and promote local history.

Asked what the future holds, Cook said, “I would like to see our partnerships secured and maintained. Our partnership with the municipality has been paramount to our success to be able to maintain the beautiful building that we have.”

Cook added that interest in the GHS and the museum continues among the many newcomers in the area. “It really makes you appreciate how you’re seen and what you can offer a community.”

He concluded, “If you haven’t been to the museum in a while, come and see it, or come and see it for the first time. And ask questions; we’ll be glad to help.”

To keep up on events at the Old Court House Museum visit the Facebook page: Guysborough Historical Society (Old Court House Museum) or the GHS website: https://www.guysboroughhistoricalsociety.ca.