It was Colchester’s Loran A. DeWolfe, one of Nova Scotia’s pioneers in adult education, who first suggested the idea of an historical society for Truro and Colchester on Sep. 5, 1953, through a letter to the editor of the Truro Daily News.
Later, at a Rotary Club dinner on Dec. 11, he raised the topic again. A few of the Rotarians responded with interest and that prompted DeWolfe to test the idea again on Jan. 28, 1954 through another letter in the Truro Daily News.
There was a reasonable response to this second letter so he followed with a circular letter to many friends and contacts. In that circular letter he invited interested people to meet on Feb. 22, 1954 at the Normal College to consider forming a Truro or Colchester Historical Society.
The meeting was held and the next day in the Truro Daily News, it was reported that a Colchester Historical Society was formed. Twenty-nine citizens of the county were present. Dr. L. A. DeWolfe was named temporary president; Dr. N. B. MacLeod and L. K. Smith of Londonderry, temporary vice-presidents; and P. D. Hamilton, secretary. A more complete report on the society’s formation is given in, Proceedings, Reports and Program Summaries 1954 - 1957, published by the society and available at the Colchester Historical Society Archives on the second floor of the Colchester Historeum on Young Street.
In the early years the meetings of the society usually included a local guest speaker who had researched the history of a local organization or business. Many of these talks were saved and published.
A huge milestone was reached on Feb. 16, 1976 when the museum was opened in the former science building of the Provincial Normal College. Frances Langille was the first curator and served in that role until 1987. With financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments, building renovations were made including the construction of the new entrance building attached to the south end.
A variety of displays have been featured and the museum began collecting documents and pictures of significance to the heritage of Colchester County. The document room was first staffed by volunteers and in 1988 Nan Harvey was hired to help catalogue and index the expanding collections. She is still providing leadership as the full-time archivist and librarian.
There is so much to learn and celebrate during these 60 years of service. A year-long birthday celebration has commenced. 2014 is a time when historical society members and the public throughout the entire county will be encouraged to remember the people and events that have helped preserve our heritage for the future. Throughout the year, the society will be reminding us of the 60 years of work which began in 1954 and continues today as we focus more on life here in the heart of Nova Scotia.
One goal is to enlarge our membership during 2014 by attracting at least 60 new members. There are presently 266 members. Becoming a member provides you with free admission to the museum for the year, as well as free research in the archives, free admittance to monthly programs and the opportunity to participate directly on the board and standing committees. The society is stronger when it represents a larger cross-section of Colchester’ citizens. More members will result in more contacts and experience in the development and special programing by the society, especially with the archives and museum. Individual, family and organizational memberships are available. Membership forms are at the entrance desk or on line at www.colchesterhistoreum.ca. Members receive a newsletter, published four times a year.
A special 60th anniversary news magazine, highlighting much of the society’s history, will be published in the spring. A financial drive to help refurbish, acquire and install new interactive exhibits on the first floor of the Historeum is being organized.
This will be a good year to become better acquainted with your local museum and archives at the Historeum. It will also be a time to participate in other programs of the Colchester Historical Society including several talks, heritage awards, children’s programs and heritage events both at and beyond the Historeum.
Together we can do much more to preserve, interpret and celebrate our Colchester heritage.
Dale Ells is a member of the Colchester Historical Society. He lives in Truro.