Out of the Archives: New Fort Anne exhibition unpacks pieces unseen for a generation

Published on March 15, 2017

Parks Canada’s Paul Paquette stands in front of a display case filled with artifacts connected to Fort Anne. The exhibition at O’Dell House Museum is called Fort Anne through the Centuries and continues until April 15.

©Lawrence Powell

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - What you don’t know about Canada’s first administered national historic site might be hanging on the walls of Annapolis Royal’s O’Dell House Museum.

The recently launched exhibition titled Fort Anne through the Centuries pays homage to the fort with sketches, military drawings, photographs, and other items that had been packed away for decades.

From ‘prospect’ drawings of the fort and Annapolis Royal going back to 1751, to maps prior to 1710, to plans of Port Royal dating back to 1657, the exhibition covers centuries of an occupied fort that was at one time a foothold in a new world, the capitol of Nova Scotia, and finally its designation as Canada’s first national historic site in 1917 – 100 years ago.

The exhibition consists of 37 pieces and hangs on the walls upstairs at O’Dell House and would have once hung on the walls of the Officers’ Quarters at the fort after 1917 when the first Parks Canada superintendent Loftus Morton Fortier began the collection.

“He started collecting these things, and these are what would have hung on the museum walls,” said Paul Paquette of Parks Canada. “But as museums go through renewals things get put away. So everything you see here was probably put away in the mid-1980s when the modern Fort Anne we know today was in place. Certainly by the exhibition of 1999 all of these were in storage.”

Photographs, post cards, and even cups and saucers are part of the exhibition.

©Lawrence Powell

The Fort

During the French period, everything is know as ‘The fort at Port-Royal,’ Paquette said, but references go right back to the original Scottish Charles Fort that was establish on a corner of the site in 1629 as referenced in one piece called Plan of Port-Royal that is described as ‘a fort in ruins.’

The French built on top of the Charles Fort ruins in 1639 – the first French fort. All told, five forts were built on the site now known as Fort Anne.

“The name Fort Anne only becomes in general use in the 1820s, but it never had a formal name like Fort Edward or Fort Cumberland,” said Paquette. “It was always ‘the fort at Annapolis Royal’ or the ‘fort at Port-Royal.’”

Paquette said that in 1917 when it became the first national historic site there was a huge debate and over the name.

“It ended up being called Fort Anne and because of the controversy that was created the Historic Monuments Board of Canada was formed in order to then say ‘okay these are the official names and we are the body that will give these names’ – so Fort Anne had two firsts,” Paquette said.

There were actually many different forts on the modern-day site of Fort Anne – and they weren’t called Fort Anne. They began with the Scottish foothold in the New World in 1629. That was call Charles Fort and lasted about three years. The French built a fort on the site in 1639. This shows plans from about 1702.

©Lawrence Powell


“These are all treasures that were lying dormant and we are celebrating the 100th anniversary as the first administered site and so it’s an occasion to showcase what we have,” said Paquette of the O’Dell House exhibit. “The museum itself, the Officers’ Quarters which houses the museum, there is a whole new exhibit being installed and there is no place for any of these items. So we wanted to showcase them and there was a partnership that was reached with the Annapolis Heritage Society here at the O’Dell House Museum to showcase these pieces.”

“I think it was also important too to have an exhibition of materials that have been away in storage for more than a generation,” said Wayne Smith of O’Dell House. “The young people need to come in and see these things to understand more of their history.”

Opening day for the exhibition was a full house. More than 50 people packed the small museum, taking turns going from room to room to view the pieces.

The exhibition continues through April 15 at the museum located at 136 Lower St George St, Annapolis Royal. It’s open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m., Fridays from 1 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

O'Dell House Museum.

O’Dell House Museum’s Wayne Smith says the exhibition Fort Anne through the Centuries gives young people the opportunity to learn more about their history. The exhibition fills the upstairs of the museum.

©Lawrence Powell