Museum fixes wrong Africville information in Halifax Explosion exhibit
'We felt it was incumbent upon us to replace it,' says curator
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has fixed a Halifax Explosion exhibit that contained inaccurate information about Africville.
Last week, Troy Adams, an African-Nova Scotian actor who was performing a play about the Halifax Explosion at the museum, publicly complained about the error.
The day CBC News published the story, the museum's curator, Roger Marsters, apologized to Adams and took immediate steps to correct the information to better reflect the African-Nova Scotian experience of the explosion.
"They thanked me for going forward with the story because this is a situation that they're trying to rectify and they want to include all facets of Halifax and the community and the racism — make sure that they're representing properly," Adams said in an interview.
Two thousand people died and 9,000 were injured on Dec. 6, 1917, when a munitions ship caught fire, causing a massive explosion in Halifax Harbour.
Erroneous panel replaced
The original panel said that Africville, which was located on the shore of Bedford Basin before the community was razed in the 1960s, was "largely sheltered by high ground" during the explosion and that only one person died.
The panel has since been replaced with a new one containing information about Africville's first black settlers and saying that the explosion "sent a storm of wreckage" through Africville.
"Seaview Baptist Church, at the community's centre, was heavily damaged," the new panel reads. "No fewer than eight African-Nova Scotians were killed in the explosion; at least four were from Africville."
Marsters said the original panel was installed in 1994 when the museum first developed its permanent Halifax Explosion exhibit, Halifax Wrecked.
"It reflected the knowledge of those who were preparing the panel at the time," Marsters said Tuesday. "Subsequent research has shown that information to be inadequate and inaccurate. And so we felt it was incumbent upon us to replace it."
Striving to be more inclusive
When Adams spoke to reporters last week, he was not aware that another temporary exhibit at the museum, Collision of the Narrows, and an interpretive banner at the museum's entrance contained more accurate information that Africville was heavily damaged.
Most recently, the museum worked with Parks Canada to develop interpretive signage on the Halifax waterfront and made sure that one of those panels reflected the experience of Africville and the explosion.
The museum, Marsters said, is committed to ensuring that its public institutions are more inclusive, particularly of the experiences of historically racialized and marginalized communities.
Adams said he's satisfied with the museum's response to his concerns.
"Where their apology was coming from was an honest place."
And Adams has no regrets about pointing out the errors.
"Black Nova Scotian history has been erased for as long as I can remember," he said. "There's many lessons with this. But first and foremost is, at least for me, what I realize is that no voice is too small."