Gaining perspective: Unique history lessons at Maritime Museum’s War of 1812 exhibit

Kristen Lipscombe, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - Who won the War of 1812?

Peter MacLeod, a historian with the Canadian War Museum, shows off some of the travelling 1812 war exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

That depends on how you look it, according to historian Peter MacLeod, who was in town Tuesday to help unveil a special exhibition at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

“We decided to present the war from the perspective of the four major players,” the curator visiting from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa said of the travelling display, which will be open to the Halifax public until Oct.13.

“So you have the British, the Americans, the Canadians – including Canadian First Peoples – and Native Americans,” MacLeod said. “Instead of telling one story of the war, we tell four.”

The 1812 exhibition also tells a uniquely Haligonian story.

“We focus on basically three things in the Nova Scotia component,” guest curator Martin Hubley said of an additional display called Prize & Prejudice: Nova Scotia’s War of 1812.

That includes Maritime causes of the war, its impact on Nova Scotia’s economy and the legacy of Black refugees.

“It’s the 200th anniversary of the war; it went on between 1812 and 1815,” explained Hubley, who is also the curator of history at the Nova Scotia Museum.

“It’s (also) the 200th anniversary in 1814 of the start of the arrival of Black refugees to Nova Scotia,” he said. “A huge number, almost 2,000 individuals … came from the Cheasapeeke Bay region … to get freedom that was offered to them by the British.”

The exhibition includes “two amazingly powerful letters” written by Black refugees that are on display to the public for the first time, Hubley said.

The exhibition also includes lesser-known facts about Nova Scotia, such as that English author Jane Austen’s brother Charles was a Royal Navy officer based in Halifax.

“We’re playing off the name Pride and Prejudice,” Hubley said. “He was actually flag captain for the admiral in Halifax.”

There are many other history lessons at the 1812 exhibition, which was officially launched Tuesday night with a reading of the Black refugee letters and an introduction by Tony Ince, Nova Scotia’s minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, as well as African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Visit maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca for more information on the travelling 1812 exhibition and Prize & Prejudice: Nova Scotia’s War of 1812.

Organizations: Maritime Museum, Canadian War Museum, Nova Scotia Museum Royal Navy African Nova Scotian Affairs

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Halifax, Ottawa Cheasapeeke Bay

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