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Secrets in the attic

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Photo: Laura de Boer

Photo: Laura de Boer

The thought of going up in to an empty attic may be unnerving for some. But sometimes the mysteries within the walls make the trip worthwhile. Halifax’s Charles Morris house has recently offered its secrets to archaeologist Laura de Boer, VP of Davis MacIntyre & Associates Limited.

She is both intrigued and excited about the findings. Morris House is the oldest wooden house in Halifax, built in the 1760s, and up until recently rested comfortably at the city’s South End. In 2013 it was painstakingly moved to the North End where renovations began in 2014.

During renovations in the attic, workers found three bundles of clothing were found tucked away in the walls. The items were at least 120 years old.

De Boer shares that two ladies bodices and a long black skirt with cartridge pleating were found indicating the age of the material. “[It] seems to be over a bit of a range,” she says “The skirt is about 1860s. And the bodices seem to be a little bit later, I think late Victorian.”

Photo: Laura de Boer

Photo: Laura de Boer

The clothing probably belonged to a “fairly small woman,” she adds.

One theory about why the clothing was found as it was may relate to European folk magic—warding off evil spirits by placing personal items near areas, “where a bad influence can come in,” adds de Boer, such as windows or chimneys.

Conservator Christian Hernandez took the items to Toronto, with permission from Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, which owns the building and the clothing. Hernandez intends to restore items for free.

“[He will] work to flatten the clothing and clean it up to make it attractive for a museum that we hope will accession it into their collection,” de Boer says.

She adds that she regrets that the find won’t stay in Nova Scotia. “Our heritage museums are extremely underfunded and we can’t find a museum that has room in their collection and doesn’t already have an example of clothing like this,” she says.

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