When the pandemic hit, the Army Museum at Halifax Citadel was forced to adapt to connect with patrons virtually, as curator Ken Hynes explained to Halifax Magazine in April. Since then, COVID-19 numbers have dropped and the museum has been able to reopen. In this update, Hynes tells us what’s changed.
The most noticeable differences are reduced hours, a no-touching policy for exhibits, directional arrows, sanitizing stations, and masks, as per the public health rules. One interactive exhibition, featuring Canadian army newsreels from the Second World War, has been postponed. But there is new content in several regular exhibitions, plus two new ones.
“Halifax Citizens in Action presents the story of civil-defence activities in the city between 1939 and 1945,” says Hynes. “War Against Japan, highlights the war in the Pacific and features two Japanese katanas [swords], a helmet, and an Arisaka combat rifle, captured in the Pacific, as well as a copy of the Japanese emperor’s message ordering the surrender of Japanese forces.” The exhibition commemorates the Japanese surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, which ended the Second World War.
This month is the 106th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the museum has much to offer visitors interested in the topic. “There are several exhibits related to the beginning of the Great War and the role played by Nova Scotian units,” Hynes says. “Our Vimy National Memorial scale model commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 and is the largest most detailed re-creation in the world. Our museum timeline provides a comprehensive treatment of all the major wartime events between 1914 and 1918, including the Halifax Explosion in 1917.”
As always, the museum aims to educate visitors about war’s horrors and how conflict shaped the lives of ordinary Canadians. “We provide a direct link for visitors to the service and sacrifice given by Canadians,” Hynes says. “The artifacts related to the Halifax Explosion hold a special meaning for me because Halifax was the only place in Canada that was physically scarred by the Great War and because of the stories told to me by my grandfather, who was one of the soldiers who was involved in the rescue and recovery efforts.”
Typically the museum sees 80,000–90,000 visitors annually, many from out of province. Hynes hopes locals will help offset this year’s dip and discover lessons about overcoming adversity that seem more relevant today. “This year with COVID-19, that number will fall, likely by 85–90%,” Hynes says. “Nevertheless, we persevere and we provide a rich, intimate opportunity for our visitors to reach back through the years and learn more about people just like them who stepped forward times of great need.”