August 18, 2011

Acadian House Museum in Nova Scotia

Went to the Acadian House Museum in West Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia.  The kitchen is restored to look as close as possible to traditional Acadian life in the area, which lasted hundreds of years and ended around 1970.  The other rooms contain artifacts and exhibits that interpret Acadian society, religion, education, genealogy, and economic activities.  

The economic activities stood out for me.  Our guide stressed how many things the people put their hands to in order to make their livings and how marginal the profits were.  She also said they were canny folks.  The people around West Chezzetcook would buy goods one day's journey to the east from the people they knew there and then they would take the goods a day's journey west to the market in Halifax and sell the goods there for twice the price.  The Halifax customers (who were English-speaking) didn't know any better, and it sounds like the French-speaking Acadians relished having the advantage.  This makes sense in light of the British earlier having tried to expel the Acadians of the region.  The West Chezzetcook Acadians escaped expulsion by hiding inland with the First Nations there.  However, I think the Acadians at the Halifax market weren't the only ones getting the benefit of their horse trading and carting; the Halifax residents got convenience and that's worth quite a lot.

On a wall of the museum there is a newspaper clipping about an Acadian woman who knit traditional socks for the Halifax market and sold them up through the 1980s.  There's a photo of her in the article, knitting away at her stall.  The museum has some thick socks on display and some enormous sock blockers make of wire, with the thick wire bent into an outline of a sock.  

There is a swift and on it is the coarsest yarn I've ever touched.  No spinning wheel; the guide says the museum has artifacts that are donated by area families and I guess a wheel hasn't come along.  Someone had made and donated a small, handwoven child's coat, though, to show how children used to dress.

We ate lunch at La Cuisine de Brigette on the museum grounds and the women who ran the cafe told us that handspinners came to an Acadian conference one year to do demonstrations.  

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