Archive and Library

The archive and library are situated above the Rose & Kettle Tearoom. Enjoy a meal or scone before your visit. Researchers are encouraged to book their visit with the Collections Manager to ensure availability. There are two archives rooms; the Eaton Room houses the image collections, and The Harris Room houses the manuscripts and other collections. Staff will be glad to retrieve your research requests!

The Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society collections represent the most comprehensive documentary evidence of Cole Harbour’s history.  The collections, both museum and archives, bridge the gap and link our rural past to its urban present.  Museum collections feature artifacts used by the farming families of the Cole Harbour community and are augmented by artifacts commonly used on most, if not all, Nova Scotia farms.  The archival collections (fonds) supply evidence of the farming past of Cole Harbour and the community’s development from a rural breadbasket to urban centre.  The archives also preserves the life and works of some of the first commercial and industrial concerns in Cole Harbour, as well as, the papers of people who have had an impact on the life and  development of our community.

 The Museum Collection

In 1973, the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society was founded out of concern for the area’s natural environment and history.  Cole Harbour had been targeted by the provincial government as an area that would see tremendous increase in the number of homes built in response to a housing shortage in metro.  At risk was the natural and cultural history of Cole Harbour that had been settled 200 years before by “Foreign Protestants”. These settlers had been enticed by the government to settle the area to farm and supply food for the City of Halifax, six miles away, across Halifax Harbour.

When the Society opened the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum, in 1976, they continued to develop and catalogue their collections. Almost immediately, the Society began collecting area artifacts in immediate danger of being lost. 

The collection includes over 2000 artifacts as diverse as children’s toys, musical instruments, general household items to farm machinery and even the buildings that make up the museum site.

Permanent exhibits at the Farm are continually being enhanced. In the meantime, visible storage displays allow the visitor to see many farm and household artifacts that span the centuries.  Museum staff are available to answer any questions that visitors may have about the collections.

Many of the artifacts collected by the Society were donated by local farmers. Some were hastily retrieved just before a barn or house demolition while others were delivered in person.  In 1983 David Settle walked from his home along the busy Cole Harbour Road to deliver his “ski-barrow”. This unique tool was built by Mr. Settle in 1920 when he worked on Andrew Settle’s farm. He kept the “ski-barrow’ in good repair and used it for the next 60 years. The “ski-barrow’ and many other artifacts in the collection help to illustrate the ingenuity and inventive spirit of rural people.

Other artifacts help interpret early commercial enterprises in Cole Harbour.  You can view some of our artifact collection online on Nova Muse and at Artefacts Canada

The Harris Archives

The Harris Archive forms part of the collections of the museum.  The archive was established in 1993 when archival material was withdrawn from the artifacts collection. The archive serves as an important resource for museum staff and outside researchers. Its collections reflect not only the history of the Cole Harbour community and the people who lived there, but also contains the Society’s papers as well as historical material pertaining to farming and market gardening.

From its earliest days Society members scoured other heritage institutions and copied any documents found that pertained to Cole Harbour. Once organized this impressive resource, including wills, deeds and mortgages and the like, allows a researcher to access a wealth of primary information at one stop.

The archive collects genealogical information on many of the families who settled Cole Harbour. Some of the names included are Bissett, Beck, Conrad, Cross, Gammon, Giles, Morash and Settle. Over the years many accruals have added to the genealogical collections.

Photographs also constitute a large part of the archives collections. The Family Albums of Cole Harbour was the first collection. Compiled by staff and volunteers from images copied from family albums by Rosemary Eaton,  it includes over 500 images of Cole Harbour’s past and covers all aspects of farm life and community.

In 2005 the archive collections grew with the addition of the Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds, a subsequent accrual in 2010 added still more. This massive collection is national and international in scope.  It includes correspondence, files on the development history of Cole Harbour, art and, in particular, a photographic archive of a photojournalism career that spanned over 6 decades.  The photography includes material relevant to communities from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

The archives also holds thousands of print and slide format images of the modern development of Cole Harbour and scrapbook collections of Society history from 1983 -1994.

Other significant collections include the Barbara Bell fonds, the Cole Harbour Parks & Trails Association fonds and most recently the Cole Harbour Westphal Fire Department fonds.