Keeping Kentville’s History Alive
By Lynn Pulsifer
Kentville Historical Society
It has been a busy year for museums in the town of Kentville! A new Heritage Centre opened its doors to the public in May. Located in Kentville’s downtown in the former VIA Rail Station, this small brick building sits alongside what was once the main rail line that ran through the town.
Opening under the management of the newly formed Kentville Historical Society, the Centre consists of a written and pictorial history of three featured areas: old photos of the town, sports in Kentville over the years, and the development of the Dominion Atlantic Railway. This season two additional temporary exhibits were displayed: one on the history of the Apple Blossom Festival, and the other on the history of the Kentville Rotary Club. The Heritage Centre operated five days a week, from 10am to 4pm, from May through to mid-October, and was staffed solely by dedicated members of the Society who volunteered on a weekly schedule.
The Heritage Centre and the Kentville Historical Society were busy this season completing various projects and events that attracted people of all ages interested in Kentville’s history. To start the season, the Society partnered with the Kentville Community Fund to host a very successful “Jane’s Walk” through the Oak Grove Cemetery in May, corresponding with the Heritage Centre’s grand opening on May 18. This was a guided cemetery walk with historical commentary by Laura Churchill-Duke.
This past year, the Society had the privilege of working with Acadia University, in particular professor David Duke, who arranged a program of oral history relating to the lives of fourteen of Kentville’s older citizens. His first-year history students conducted interviews with these long-time residents, with written copies of the interviews at the Heritage Centre. A second program similar to this one is currently being done again this year by Duke’s students, with this year’s focus on the lives of twelve Women of Kentville.
The Kentville Historical Society also participated in the successful Rupert Davis project, in collaboration with both the Kings Historical Society and the Kentville Police Service. A gravestone and historical plaque were placed in the Oak Grove Cemetery where Davis, a former Kentville Police Chief, is buried.
Throughout the 2019 season, the Heritage Centre has had more than 300 visitors, with some coming from outside the town, province, and country. Over the past year, the Kentville Historical Society has hosted bi-monthly membership meetings at Kings Riverside Court with various guest speakers sharing interesting insights into local historical events. These meetings are open to the public.
The Historical Society is always looking for artifacts or written information pertaining to Kentville’s past. If you have anything to share or donate, please contact the Society on its Facebook page or call 902-678-6644. As a special fundraiser, the Society is currently selling individually packaged sets of eight historic postcards featuring old Kentville for $20 each. Contact the Society online or at the above number if you’re interested in purchasing a set.
The Heritage Centre is now closed to the public for the winter, but will re-open again in May of 2020 with several new exhibits. The Society’s members will again be volunteering at the Centre with their goal of keeping Kentville’s history alive for the future generations.