To mark the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, the Army Museum at Halifax Citadel is showing off some unique and priceless artifacts.
A special opening of the museum will take place from Dec. 2 to Dec. 6. As part of the First World War exhibit, a clock recovered from the Halifax Shipyard is on display – and marks the time that disaster struck the city.
“The watchman’s clock that we installed on our Halifax Explosion display wall is perhaps my favourite artifact in the whole museum,” said Ken Hynes, the museum’s curator.
“We call it frozen in time because the hands of that watchman’s clock are frozen at 9:05.”
The exhibit also features a fragment of the deck plating and rivet from the SS Mont Blanc as well as a Ross Rifle that the museum says is thought to have been in the hands of the army sentry at Wellington Barracks when the explosion occurred.
A wheelchair that was used at Halifax’s Camp Hill Hospital in 1917 is also on display for the public to view.
“It’s a very rare artifact,” Hynes says of the wheelchair.
“It’s in, as you can imagine, fragile condition but we want to have that on display to the public this week so that they have an opportunity to see some of the artifacts of our history here in Halifax.”
Members of the media also had an opportunity to view some items that are part of the museum’s collection but will not be on display to the public – one of those items is a stretcher.
“We can’t say for sure that it was used during the explosion but it is of the exact type that was used at that time,” said Hynes.
A book with the names and addresses of the people killed in the explosion as well as never before seen photos that were recently donated to the museum were also available for a media preview.
“I’ve seen many, many photographs of the aftermath of the explosion and some of these photographs we have I’ve never seen before,” said Hynes. “The individual that took them, probably from a small, tiny camera, kept them in their photographic holdings for years and years and then maybe a family member decided it was time for them to go to a museum.”
Hynes says while the story of the Halifax Explosion is well known to the people who live in the area, the role of 5,000 soldiers who leapt into action and helped people in the aftermath of the disaster isn’t as well known.
“The soldiers of the Canadian Military and the sailors or the Royal Canadian Navy who were stationed in Halifax at that time were the saviours of the city,” said Hynes.
“That story has not been particularly well told over the years and I think its important that young people today and all of us recognize the role that played by young men and woman.”
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Admission to the Army Museum at Halifax Citadel will be free from Saturday to Wednesday so the public can commemorate the centennial of the Halifax Explosion.
-With files from Cory McGraw