Nineteenth-Century Nova Scotia Libraries

Omeka Mock-up

We are building a web-based research guide to what was on the bookshelves of late eighteenth- and nineteenth–century Nova Scotia readers. This digital library will make it possible to “read over the shoulders” of colonial Nova Scotians, to be immersed in their world of books and ideas. Just as visitors to Nova Scotia museums can get a sense of the workaday world of colonial residents by walking through period homes, readers of our digital library will be able to page through the books that provided the mental furniture and intellectual vocabulary for their world. This project collects, digitally curates, and situates books found in Nova Scotia personal libraries in the 19th century. Using a combination of existing library lists (such as Richard John Uniacke’s from the Nova Scotia Museum) and recreated lists (such as those of Edward Manning and James Barry), and exploring possibilities in university special collections – notably Dalhousie University, University of King’s College, and Acadia University – and collections held in other Nova Scotia Museum affiliates, we envision building an interactive guide to begin tracking the reading habits of colonial Nova Scotian readers.

The Colonial Bookshelf will grow in phases. To date we have identified a sample of readers/libraries, begun organizing their reading into a consistent format, and have researched the digital platform(s) best suited to the project. In the next phase, for which we also intend to apply for a NSM Cultural History Research Grant as well as other funding, we will round slightly expand our sample of readers and make the website operational. This autumn (2019) we are applying for a SSHRC Partnership Development grant. We have had preliminary discussions with partner organizations including the Nova Scotia Museum, the Dalhousie University Library, and the Provincial Archives of Nova Scotia.