Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Nova Scotia
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

A maritime province along Canada’s eastern coast, Nova Scotia was one of four provinces that united to form Canada in 1867. Prior to European contact, the area was primarily settled by the Mi’kmaq indigenous group, who still represent the province’s largest First Nations community. Early in the 17th century, the area became home to French colonists, the descendants of whom became known as Acadians. The British and French vied for control of Nova Scotia throughout much of the 17th and 18th centuries, with British victory leading to the Acadians being expelled in the 1750s. New settlers came not just from the British Isles but also from New England, as migrants loyal to the British crown fled the American Revolution. As well as having three national parks, today Nova Scotia also has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Archaeology & History Sites in Nova Scotia

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

The Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell, best known as the inventor of the telephone, spent several years in Nova Scotia, where he established a laboratory at Baddeck during the 1880s. Today, the area is a National Historic Site with a museum devoted to Bell and his inventions. Among the displays are the hull of Bell’s HD-4 hydrofoil boat and the AEA Silver Dart which succeeded in becoming the first controlled heavier-than-air craft to be flown on British territory. As well as exploring Bell’s important work, the museum also delves into his family life.

Fortress of Louisbourg

A French settlement grew up at the site of the Fortress of Louisbourg in the early 18th century, taking its name from the French King Louis XIV. Growing threats resulted in fortifications being built around the settlement between 1720 and 1740. In 1745 the British seized control of the fortress, part of their push to conquer French-controlled land in what is now Canada. About a quarter of the original fort has now been reconstructed. During the peak summer season, reenactors in period costume help visitors immerse themselves in the heritage experience.

Halifax Citadel

The fortification at Halifax Citadel, now a National Historic Site, was once known as Fort George, a name chosen in honour of George II, the King of Great Britain. The strategic hilltop was chosen for its commanding view over the harbour, so as to best protect the growing town beneath it. Although never attacked, the fort played a key role in Anglo-French rivalry in this part of Canada. The first fortifications were constructed in 1749 and rebuilt four times, but the fort on display today has been restored to its Victorian period.

Museums & Art Galleries in Nova Scotia

Admiral Digby Museum

The Admiral Digby Museum delves into the heritage of Nova Scotia’s Digby County, with particular focus on its strong maritime links. The museum occupies a house built during the middle of the 19th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in the town of Digby. In the late 1960s, the building became Digby’s first library before transforming into a museum during the early 1980s. The museum takes its name from Robert Digby, an admiral who brought United Empire Loyalists to the town from New York in 1783.

Africville Museum

Africville was an area of Halifax settled primarily by Black Canadians, many of whom had fled north to escape enslavement in the United States. Developing in the early 19th century, by the early 20th century it was often regarded as a slum, with a waste-treatment facility established nearby in the 1950s. In the 1960s the government condemned the settlement for demolition. The heritage of this distinct community is now marked not only with a commemorative monument but also through the Africville Museum, established in the 2010s.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Having been established in 1908, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is housed in Halifax’s historic Dominion Building, built in 1865. The largest art gallery in Atlantic Canada, it contains over 17,000 works of art in its permanent collection. The material on display is diverse, ranging from Inuit stone carvings to folk art by European Canadians, as well as paintings, photographs and other objects by artists with strong ties to Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces – many of which depict imagery of local significance. The museum also operates a smaller satellite gallery in Yarmouth.

Baile nan Gàidheal - Highland Village Museum

The Baile nan Gàidheal or Highland Village in Iona is an open-air museum that focuses on the heritage of Nova Scotia’s Scottish Gaelic speaking settlers. Part of the broader Nova Scotia Museum system, Baile nan Gàidheal brings together a range of historic buildings spread over 43 acres of land. Reenactors dressed in period costume, and often engaged in traditional activities like weaving and blacksmithing, help ensure that visitors enjoy a more immersive living history experience. Special events take place throughout the year, including performances of traditional Scottish music.