Museums allow us to gather objects and lessons about our world together and display them for educational and entertainment purposes. Every city has their own ways to shape these spaces, and Halifax is no exception. The following list will guide you to the institution of greatest interest to you. Most of these are within Halifax, but there are two that are outside the city, and are well worth the trip.
Halifax Citadel Once a military fort, the Citadel still has one of the best views of downtown and the Harbour in the whole city. There are still guards and soldiers, they’re just people performing re-enactments of how life was lived at the fort centuries ago. If you’re local, you might want to try out one of their piping or drumming classes. And if you’re shorter on time, they offer two kinds of tours: one is a guided historical tour, and one is a Ghost Walk!
Address: Citadel Hill
Museum of Natural History
The museum of natural history holds everything you could ever want to know about the natural history of Nova Scotia. The exhibits cover rocks and minerals, animals from the land, air, and sky, and plants. They also have exhibits dealing with Mi’kmaq history and culture. This museum is fun and informative for all ages, and they can accommodate for sensory sensitivities.
Address: 1747 Summer Street
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The sea surrounds Nova Scotia and makes waves throughout its history. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic celebrates and explores this history on several levels. They have exhibits telling stories of the shipping, travel, and fishing traditions in Atlantic Canadian history, focusing particularly on Nova Scotia. They have special exhibits dedicated to the Titanic and the Halifax Explosion. Right on the Halifax Waterfront, one of their exhibits is a ship, the C.S.S Acadia.
Address: 1675 Lower Water Street
Nova Scotia Art Gallery The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia holds an impressive amount of collections of art, both local and international. From Maud Lewis’ actual home to a collection of art done by the Autism Arts students, this is a celebration of art in many forms. The Gallery has classes for everyone from toddlers to seniors, and they frequently host local art events. When you’ve had your fill of art, check out the Pavia Gallery Café for delicious coffee, sandwiches, and pastries.
Pier 21 is a Canadian museum of Immigration. This pier saw people taking their first steps on Canadian soil, and saw soldiers headed off to World War Two. Today it’s a museum that commemorates Canadian immigration history, including the darker moments. You can also conduct genealogical research in the Family History Centre, tracing your own roots back to the first immigrants in your family.
Address: 1055 Marginal Road
Africville was once a community of African Nova Scotians in Halifax that lasted over 100 years. However, it was demolished in the 1960s, tearing apart an entire community in the name of “progress”. Mayor Peter Kelly’s apology in 2010 included provisions to build a replica of Africville’s church, which is now a museum. The message of the museum is of the culture and strength of Africville, and tells the story of its survival long after the last building was torn down. It’s still a sadder museum visit, but it’s important to reflect on what Africville was, and how that spirit is carried on today.
Address: 5795 Africville Road
Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame
Nova Scotia has produced some stunning athletes, and this museum celebrates them all. With over 550 inductees, the Hall of Fame covers sports from boxing to swimming. They also have an extensive collection of sports memorabilia and artifacts, which is searchable online. It operates as a non-profit, so entry is free!
Address: 1800 Argyle Street, Suite 446
Shearwater Aviation Museum
Started in 1978, the Aviation Museum is dedicated to preserving the military aviation history of the Shearwater base. They’re not limited to the Royal Canadian Air Force, however; they also cover naval connections like aircraft carriers. They have a huge collection of artifacts ranging from uniforms to air command artifacts to actual airplanes. If you want a closer look at what flying a plane would feel like, they even have a flight simulator.
Address: 34 Bonaventure Street, Shearwater
MSVU Art Gallery
Mount Saint Vincent University has a beautiful campus, and one of the most beautiful parts is the art gallery. The gallery’s mandate is to support “the representation of women as cultural subjects and producers”, and they combine this with larger themes of visual culture. They make excellent use of the smaller space, creating exhibits that draw from many different parts of the world. These exhibits change frequently, so keep an eye on their website!
Address: 166 Bedford Highway (MSVU campus)
Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design
Address: 1061 Marginal Road
Looking up at the stars is always special, but experiencing them through an observatory’s powerful telescope is a special kind of special. Located at the St. Mary’s University campus, this observatoryhosts weekend open houses as well as private groups. Both involve looking through the telescope at stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomena with commentary. Some nights it’s possible to go up to the roof and look through a portable telescope all on your own.
Address: Department of Astronomy and Physics (St. Mary’s University)
If the observatory didn’t quite quench your thirst for outer space, the Planetarium might fit the bill. The Planetarium is at Dalhousie University, very close to St. Mary’s in fact, and it uses a vintage Spitz projector to guide a presentation on the night sky. They have a series of public shows, but it’s also possible to book with a group. I’ve been myself, and it’s quite an experience; suddenly the room feels 10 times bigger, and the stars don’t seem so far away.
Address: Sir James Dunn Building (Dalhousie Campus)
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic
Where the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic goes wide, the Fisheries Museum focuses in on, well, fisheries. The fishing history of Atlantic Canada is explored in great detail, from the first fishers to the rum runners, storms and ship building. In the Ice House Theatre on the third floor, they show a variety of films during the day covering marine life, the Bluenose II, and even follows a stowaway on a Lunenburg schooner. This is a great chance to visit Lunenburg and learn all about the history that makes this town a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Address: 68 Bluenose Drive, Lunenburg
By: Adrienne Colborne