Yarmouth County Museum
The Yarmouth County Museum is a distinguished community museum incorporated in 1958 in the town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, under the auspices of the Yarmouth County Historical Society.
The museum moved in 1969 from a small wooden building to its present location in a magnificent 12,360 square foot granite-walled former church. The move enabled the collections to be expanded, both in their diversity and in the numbers of artifacts included, and signalled the establishment of an archival collection detailing the history of the county.
The setting within the former church is unique: a well kept, high-ceilinged building of solid granite, with carpeted flooring throughout. The architecture combines with the superb collections to create a warm intimacy, immediately captivating visitors as they cross the museum's threshold. Nestled within the Collins Heritage Conservation District, a neighbourhood of historically significant Victorian houses near the business district, the museum has drawn thousands of visitors, year after year.
The Yarmouth County Museum is well known internationally for its collections, in particular its collection of ship portraits, which is the third largest in Canada, for its costume collection, which is the third largest in Nova Scotia, and for its archives, the largest non-institutional archives in Nova Scotia.
Staff of the museum and archives are respected in professional circles. They have published numerous articles, reviews, etc. and the director has been a featured speaker at national conferences. The museum is also rich in its ties to the local community. In 2008 alone, some 80 volunteers contributed well over 3,600 hours to the work of the museum and archives.
History of the Building
Tabernacle Congregational Church
The Yarmouth County Museum was originally constructed as a Congregational church in 1892-93. It is a Gothic Revival style building of rough finish Shelburne granite.
Tabernacle Congregational Church was built to replace an earlier wooden church building, which was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on March 12, 1892. The cornerstone for this church was laid on August 9 that same year, and the dedication of the new building took place a year later, on August 20, 1893. The new church was a radical departure from traditional wood framed church buildings, and when it was completed, was regarded as the handsomest church building in western Nova Scotia, according to newspaper articles of the time.
Here are some of the building's outstanding architectural features that remain for all to see:
The stonework was done by Melford and William Sims, and was the only granite structure ever built by them. The beams in the vaulted ceiling come from the Second Tusket River Bridge, which had been dismantled and replaced with a steel structure. The auditorium could accommodate 325 people, and the adjoining school was suitable for up to 150 people. The cost of building the church was $14,638.42.
Central United Church of Yarmouth
Some time after June 10, 1925, when the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches joined to form the United Church of Canada, the name of the church was changed to the Central United Church of Yarmouth. Its use as a church continued until the mid-1960s, when the new Beacon United Church building was constructed in Yarmouth, and this building was deemed redundant. Upon approval by the South Shore Presbytery, the building was sold to the Yarmouth County Historical Society in 1967 as a home for its collections.
Yarmouth County Museum
The Yarmouth County Historical Society was formed in 1935, in part to collect and preserve historical records and artifacts, as well as to generally promote interest in Yarmouth County's history. The Yarmouth County Museum was founded in 1958 under the auspices of the Yarmouth County Historical Society, and for several years occupied a much smaller building several blocks away. With the acquisition of the former church, and the move into the new premises in 1969, their space increased to 12,360 square feet, enabling the expansion of the collection of artifacts and the establishment of an archival collection.