Nova Scotia

Upgrades, expansion underway for Cape Breton's Highland Village Museum

The Highland Village Museum in Iona, N.S., is being expanded and renovated for the first time since 2003. A 7,700-square-foot welcome/cultural centre will be built and will be open year-round.

'Now people can actually do tangible, physical, hands-on things such as weaving'

Construction has begun at Highland Village Museum and will continue until next December. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

The Highland Village Museum in Iona, N.S., is being expanded and renovated for the first time since 2003.

A 7,700-square-foot welcome/cultural centre will be built and will be open year-round. It will include an orientation exhibit, archive and gift shop.

A shingle mill will also be built. It will be fully operational.

There will also be renovations to other structures around the museum, including the current visitor centre. That will be used to preserve the Gaelic Nova Scotia provincial collection.

Highland Village in Iona, N.S., focuses on province's Gaelic folk-life, culture and language. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Rodney Chiasson, Highland Village's director, said the museum is known for providing visitors exposure to Gaelic language, stories and songs.

"Now people can actually do tangible, physical hands-on things, such as weaving and various crafts," said Chiasson. "With this new centre we'll be able to do that more on a year-round basis."

Chiasson said the site tells the history of the Gaels in Nova Scotia from 1770, when they were still in Scotland, up until the Second World War and even more recent times.

Since the 1980s, Chiasson said the museum has offered genealogy archives for visitors to access on site, but it outgrew its space and will now be included in the welcome/cultural centre.

Rodney Chiasson is the Highland Village Museum's director. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

They will also be adding an exhibit on the history and the culture of the Mi'kmaq. Chiasson said it's important for visitors to know the Mi'kmaq were the first people here. 

"The Mi'kmaq have been here for thousands of years and they have also been very important to the Gaelic story itself," said Chiasson.

The exhibit will include some history of the relationship between the Mi'kmaq and the Gaels.

Trevor Sanipass, a CBC Mi'kmaw culture columnist, said the relationship between the two groups was evident to him growing up.

"My grandfather spoke Gaelic and … that's one of the languages I certainly would love to learn," said Sanipass.

Trevor Sanipass says he's pleased to see the Highland Village undergo an expansion. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

He said it is great to see the Highland Village undergo an expansion and encourages anyone to learn about another culture. 

He said adding in the exhibit and acknowledging the Mi'kmaq is wonderful news.

"Being Indigenous, we were here long before anyone else or any other settlers, so that's important," said Sanipass. "I think that's a great idea."

Work is expected to be finished by the end of 2021.

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