The culmination of a two-year journey for the Kentville Historical Society is mere days away.
Volunteers have been working diligently to get a heritage centre devoted to town history established in the former VIA Rail train station. The vision will come to fruition on May 18 with the official opening at 2 p.m.
The vision for the seasonally-operated centre is a well-rounded, dedicated facility concentrating solely on any and all aspects of Kentville’s rich history, including the railway, athletics and general heritage. A lease between the Town of Kentville and the society for the Station Lane property was signed in December.
Society board chairman Erik Deal said on May 2 that the interior renovations have been completed, so the building is ready to go. A team of volunteers was about halfway through hanging pictures and placing artifacts in preparation for the opening.
Because the organization is newly established, its collection is somewhat limited. Deal said opening the centre allows them to start building on it.
“As people become more aware that we have a physical space, they are more likely to donate,” he said.
Earlier that day, for example, the society received a donation of several boxes of Dominion Atlantic Railway artifacts dating back to 1909. Deal said they welcome financial contributions, donations of artifacts and would be receptive to long-term lending.
He said it’s a good feeling knowing that they are so close to achieving the society’s goal. A core group of volunteers is responsible for most efforts to bring the heritage centre to fruition, a lot of them life-long Kentville residents. He said the vast knowledge of board member and resident historian Louis Comeau has been a great asset.
As they’ve gotten closer, they have attracted more members and built a larger group of volunteers. Deal pointed out that more volunteers would be needed, especially to keep the centre operating day-to-day.
“Hopefully people will see what is happening and become excited, just as we are, and step up to assist us in any way they can,” Deal said.
He hopes that they can continue building strong relationships with the Town of Kentville and the Kings Historical Society. Deal said they’ve already been working with the Kings society and they plan to join forces on other heritage-related projects.
He agrees there is a certain synergy having the Kings County Museum and the Kentville Heritage Centre both located in town. With two facilities, it’s more likely that they’ll attract tourists interested in history.
Society member and volunteer Brian Pulsifer said history is the soul of the community and there has never been a facility devoted entirely to Kentville’s heritage. He said a lot of the town’s history has been lost over the years and it’s the mission of the volunteers to save what’s left.
He said gathering the pictorial or photographic history has been the easy part. The biggest challenge has been finding documents and putting the written stories together, particularly in relation to the railway. They now have several binders full of information.
He said the heritage centre is a work in progress and it remains to be seen how exactly it will evolve. Pulsifer hopes the excitement expressed on social media regarding the society and heritage centre will translate to lots of visitors. He said it’s possible that they’ll outgrow the former train station building.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In conjunction with the official opening of the heritage centre on May 18, there will be a free guided walk of Kentville’s historic Oak Grove Cemetery from 11 a.m. to noon. Led by Laura Churchill Duke, the walk has been organized by the Kentville Historical Society and the Kentville Community Fund.
- Kentville Historical Society meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for June 12 at Kings Riverside Court and will feature a guest speaker, yet to be determined.
- For more information or to volunteer, contact the Kentville Historical Society through its Facebook page.