TRURO, N.S. – Nan Harvey has touched a lot of people. This was apparent Sunday afternoon at the Colchester Historeum as a large number of well-wishers attended a retirement celebration for Harvey. The outstanding archivist’s last day is Wednesday, Jan. 31.
Terry White, Colchester Historical Society president, emceed the celebration which saw Truro Mayor Bill Mills, County Mayor Christine Blair and Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson bring congratulatory remarks and make presentations to Harvey.
A gift, an undisclosed amount of cash collected by museum volunteers, was given to the retiree.
“Nan has been a loyal and dedicated worker for more than 30 years,” White said. “Nan has dealt with the growth of interest by the public in genealogy and tracing family history. As a result of Nan’s work over many years – the Colchester records, maps, deeds and photographs have all been well organized.”
Historical researchers Jim Smith and Carol Campbell took part in the program and delighted the audience as they reviewed Harvey’s career. Laughter filled the room several times as Smith and Campbell touched on museum history which included an unusual twist.
“I’d describe Nan Harvey as having a lot of people skills,” Smith told me later. “Nan was always courteous and she could handle any situation. Carol and I worked closely with Nan since back in the 1990s. It was almost as if we were a team. Nan would help us time and time again and we would help Nan.”
In talking with Harvey one on one, we looked back on the past 30 years.
“In 1988 they wanted to make the reading room into an archives room,” said the native of South Farmington, near Middleton. “The job as archivist became available and I decided that this was a job I could be interested in.”
Harvey described what was then the reading room on the second floor.
“The place was loaded with books; there were books that didn’t have cards, there were cards that didn’t have books. Back then, there were no computers. There were 50 of those old chicken boxes full of papers. Starting off I was helping two people, Francis Langille and Marjorie Boomer, in straightening things out.”
One large change recalled by Harvey was the introduction of computers; highlights were clearly helping visitors research family roots.
“Some of these people came to the museum from across Canada, the United States, across the pond in England, even from Australia. Working with people who were looking for family roots, I was as interested as the people doing the searching. It was gratifying when important information was found, I have no idea how many people I helped research family roots.”
The archives grew tremendously under Harvey; on many occasions new shelves were built and a microfilm room was built, as was a storage area.
“The board finally said ‘you may as well take over the whole second floor.’ Over time, we did take over the whole second floor; things just kept growing. But the things that were done could only have been accomplished with the contribution of many wonderful volunteers.”
A busy summer in 2017 saw 380 people visit the archives; they came from New Zealand, England, Scotland and 11 states of the U.S. Harvey can recall countless interesting things that happened in archives.
“I’ve seen two groups of people come in and sit down to do research. When they came in, they were strangers. These were people from distant places, they would begin talking and the next thing they find out is that they are related. This sends shivers up my back; how did two groups of people happen to come in to the archives at the same time on the same day and end up having family connections?”
Harvey also recalled that through the years many people came in to leaf through old copies of the Truro Daily News.
- from 1891 to the 1950s, articles were clipped; people would check news stories, obituaries, this sort of thing,” she said.
Harvey hinted there’s uncertainty regarding retirement.
“I guess I’m going to take some time and smell the roses. I have no definite plans, I’m not planning any grand trip. I’ll read some, I guess, and I plan to enjoy my hobby, gardening.
Lyle Carter’s column appears every second Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 902-673-2857.