Old maps finding new life at Cumberland museum

Andrew Wagstaff
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Cumberland County Museum and Archives curator Shirley Nickerson shows off some of the old maps the museum staff and volunteers are repacking in a more preservation-friendly way, part of the museum's archival strategic plan.

AMHERST - Old maps will be better kept at the Cumberland County Museum and Archives thanks to a new initiative that is changing the way they are stored and accessed.

Museum curator Shirley Nickerson and staff have been busy refilling and repackaging thousands of maps of all varieties from Cumberland County, some of them dating back more than 250 years.

"We have land maps, we have building plans, we have deeds with different little lots on them... some have had the year on them, so anyone who has a dispute on property lines might be able to use them," said Nickerson. "Basically, it shows you where it is, and how the lands have changed."

The maps date as far back as 1755 and as recent as 2004, and number more than a thousand, according to Nickerson, who explained that the museum is in the process of re-cataloguing and storing them in a new way to better preserve them for generations to come.

"We're trying to preserve them and protect them," she said.

When the museum was established more than 30 years ago, it was told to store the maps by rolling them up. A few years ago, it upgraded this method to wrapping them around cardboard tubes and covering them with tissue paper.

Now the method of choice is to store them laid flat in mylar sleeves, and kept in drawers or cabinets. That is what the museum staff and volunteers have been busy doing.

Going through the various maps has been a delight for Nickerson, who has marveled at the wide range of material. Some of her favourites have included one of the Amherst marsh, and one that shows the water depth of the Pugwash harbour.

"It just shows the difference between today and tomorrow," she said. "This sort of stuff is just so interesting. When you go around that corner, it doesn't look like that now."

Topping her list of favourites is a Canada Electric map of 1926 laying out a planned route for utility poles between Springhill Junction and Harrison's Lake. Not only does the map show many lots - one museum board member recognized his grandfather's property - but it is livened up by artful drawings of blueberry pickers, geese and teepees.

All the maps have been donated by private citizens over the years. The new preservation effort is part of the museum's archival strategic plan completed three years ago.

Nickerson said she hopes to put a future exhibit together with some of the maps.

"Cumberland County has a rich history and we'd like to promote it as much as possible to remind people of just what was here, what is here and what we have for them," she said.

Organizations: Cumberland County Museum, Harrison's

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Pugwash

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