Building the vision: New Black Loyalist Heritage Centre on the way

BLHS on track to start construction on $7-million museum

Amy Woolvett
Published on January 28, 2014

By Amy Woolvett

All of the struggles, planning, heartache and years of hard work will come to fruition this spring as work begins on the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre Museum.

Beverly Cox, manager, says construction will begin late February or early March.

Despite a few setbacks over the winter, the museum is holding fast to its goal for a completion in November with a soft opening shortly after.

They had to find a new architect during the winter after finding inadequacies in the drawings.

They have instead decided to hire out a team who will collaborate on a design-build concept which goes on simultaneously.

“This gives us so much more control,” says Cox.  “If the project goes over budget we can choose to bring down the cost of the build through alternative materials.”

They are keeping a tight lid on their budget with the assistance of the project contractor.

PCL Construction, Canada’s largest construction firm, was awarded the project in December.

The exhibit contract was awarded to Skyline Atlantic who in turn partnered with Lord Cultural Resources to help turn the vision of what the museum will be into a reality.

“PCL will be onsite this month clearing the site and fencing off the area to get ready for construction,” says Cox.

“We are now on the right path with all the right players at the table,” says Cox.  “Things are moving around quite nicely.”

The exhibit itself will have a budget of $1-millon.

The museum’s architecture and exhibit will be unique.

It will incorporate historical artifacts and be blended together with new technology.

Touch screen monitors will be placed throughout the facility.

 It will include areas where people can search their ancestry while a floor to ceiling glass wall will feature 3000 names of the Black Loyalists.

The names of those who came to Birchtown seeking a better life will be etched in the wall’s surface

An archeological glass pit will hold finds from past excavations and benches featuring audio recordings will be placed around the room.

Cox says the museum planning anticipates people’s sometimes intense reactions to hearing the story of the Black Loyalists.

“This is a difficult story to tell,” she says.  “The impact it has on people can be overwhelming…especially for a child.”

She says to help, the museum will have a creative corner where people can write, draw or paint out their emotions or reactions.

“People work things out in different ways,” says Cox.

She says she is pleased with the support the Nova Scotia family of museums is giving the Birchtown museum.

“This wasn’t something we could sustain on our own …we struggle with what we have now,” says Cox.   “Not one museum had anything on our legacy so it was a perfect collaboration.”

The museum will get a $250,000 operating budget each year and to sustain this the museum needs to maintain 10,000 visitors per year.

It is projected the museum will see between 6,000 and 20,000 visitors its first year.

The cost to visit the museum is to be kept affordable at $5 or $7 for admission.

“Some people seek us out because it is a part of their history,” says Cox.  “But most people are interested in the story because it is one they have never heard before.”

It is the hope the museum will keep this long buried story alive so that it won’t ever be forgotten again.

Exhibit plans

©Amy Woolvett photo