Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Miners Museum seeks help identifying artifacts

The Cape Breton Miners Museum wants a literal leg up in identifying some of its very old artifacts.

1980s fire destroyed documents explaining what things are, and staff are now trying to work it out

Vintage typewriters take their eternal rest. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)

The Cape Breton Miners Museum wants a literal leg up in identifying some of its very old artifacts.

One of the mysterious museum pieces is an actual wooden leg, presumably once owned by a miner. But a bad fire in the 1980s destroyed many of the documents that explained the significance of the museum's collection.

"Although we opened in 1967, which is modern history, some of the artifacts we have date back way earlier than that," said Mary Pat Mombourquette, director at the museum.

"Things that had been in families for a while, so it was used back in mines that were probably in the 1700s to 1800s and our modern day miners don't even know what it could have been used for."

The wooden leg, and hundreds of other artifacts, sat in the basement for years and staff are now trying to learn more about them.

Mombourquette says some of the items are so old, even the oldest retired coal miners can't offer any suggestions.

Steve Drake, a former miners' union president in New Waterford, said his grandfather Bill Burke wore two wooden legs after an accident in the mine.

"Basically what they were was a stiff wooden leg with a cup that your knee went into. There were straps, heavy straps, attached to a heavy belt. My grandfather had almost like a weightlifter's harness, which attached to his belt," he said.

"There were three components and he tried to walk with them and couldn't walk. This is the story that has been passed through the family."

But Burke's legs are accounted for. Drake intends to visit the museum to tell them what he knows about how such legs were used.

Scroll down for photos of some of the artifacts. 

Finding light in the dark mines was always a challenge. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)
A bottle of Gilbey's Old Tom gathers dust. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)
A few minors made it into the miners museum. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)
These helmets protected many a head over the years. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)
Vintage typewriters take their eternal rest. (Courtesy Cape Breton Miners Museum)

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