Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown NS
Disclosure: Our family received a pass to visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, NS in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are our own.
Ever since I read the Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, I became captivated by Nova Scotia’s role in the story and how Birchtown was founded by Black Loyalists in 1783.
The Book of Negroes, is the name of the historic British military ledger that registered 3,000 Black Loyalists who sailed from New York City to Nova Scotia in 1783.
Birchtown, located near Shelburne on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, was home to the first and largest settlement of free blacks outside Africa in the years following the American Revolution.
About the Museum
The new Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, located on the original settlement grounds in Birchtown, will take visitors through the journey of early Black settlers in Nova Scotia.
Visitors to the Centre can also research the 3,000 names recorded in the Book of Negroes via the digital copy.
About Our Visit
As the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum is only a few years old, they were able to build it from scratch with all the newest technologies available, based on how people visit museums today.
From the moment you step on the property, the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre is captivating.
When you walk into the museum, you are surrounded by the names from the Book of Negroes, whether on the walls, windows, or in the floor, which is open glass in a large part of it.
Because there is so much information, and so many people to read about, the museum has a brilliant technique. When you arrive, you are given a card with the name of a person from the Book of Negroes on it.
Go through the displays and follow the story of your person, learning about their life story! This allows you to focus on just this, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the information around you. Although, all of it is truly fascinating!
Black Loyalist Heritage Centre and Kids
There were plenty of hands-on activities for the kids at the museum. They also received a card with a person’s name to follow, and they enjoyed doing this.
All the displays are touch-screen, so they also watched a few videos and sat on the bench to listen to the audio stories.
Their favourite part was making an electronic traditional quilt, which was later projected on the wall.
What was really special, too, was that one of the guides there actually grew up in Birchtown and attended the schoolhouse and church there in the community! She filled us in on lots of other stories!
Other Places on Site
Besides the museum, visitors can visit a few other historically important places within a few metres. There is the old school house, which was the former museum, and now contains more information panels.
There is the former community church, and a pit house, where people stayed during the first winter.
“With no land to call their own, most Black Loyalists had to face their new homeland’s harsh winter climates without shelter. In order to survive, they dug pit houses such as this replica. Shallow ditches were dug in the ground with a shelter fashioned out of tree branches. It is a testament to their resourcefulness and strength that they managed to survive the Nova Scotian winter in such a makeshift dwelling” Read more
Hours, Admission and Location
The Black Loyalist Heritage Centre is open year round and is a great place for class trips. Hours change throughout the year, so check ahead!
The museum is located a few minutes from Shelburne.
We highly recommend a visit to the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum. It provides a great history of the black loyalists, and highlights the first community for free blacks. It’s not an area that we studied much in school, so it was good to learn more on the important subject!
This is a great museum for all ages!