Highland Village Museum

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This is a lovely setting on the hillside overlooking Bras d'Or Lake. We can understand why the area reminded the Scots of home.

There is a self guided tour around the site and we were given a leaflet with a map and some information about the buildings.

We began in the blackhouse which was the kind of home the early settlers lived in before they left Scotland. It was a small oval building made of stones with a turf roof and open fire burning peat in the centre of the floor. It was smaller than the blackhouses we have seen in the Hebrides and there was no attached barn for animals. Visitors tend to say 'wasn't it primitive'. In fact it was a very successful design for the conditions at the time. Peat was burnt. This burns slowly producing a steady heat. It is much better than wood. Smoke produced is not carcinogenic. There is no chimney so the smoke finds its way through the turf. This kills off bugs in the roof and the high concentrations of carbon dioxide stop sparks setting the turf alight. Traditionally people lived in half of the house and animals were kept in the other half. As well as producing warmth, ammonia from their urine stopped people from getting tuberculosis.

All the buildings on the site are houses from around the area that have been rebuilt on the site and represent different types of houses lived in by the early settlers. Blackhouses are not found in Nova Scotia and all building was in wood.

The first houses to be built were simple wood cabins built from felled tree trunks. These were one room with a massive stone chimney at one end. Later houses had two rooms downstairs with a central open fire in the kitchen area with stone chimney above. A central staircase led to attic bedrooms. Gradually the open fire was replaced by a cast iron wood burning stove providing heating and cooking facilities. There was an example of a large prosperous house which had the telephone exchange.

There were costumed interpreters in each to explain about the building and answer questions. One had been making cinnamon buns in a cast iron pot placed on the log embers with more piled on top. We were offered a hot bun to try. It was very good.

The smithy was working and the blacksmith was making nails. The shop did a roaring trade in nails. Farmers would come into the forge and make a large number of nails which they would trade in the shop for goods.

There was a video in the carding mill explaining how it worked. There was no one in the barn area, school or church. There were a few rather ancient labels in the barn but it would have been helpful to have had someone available to answer questions. There were 2 pigs, hens, sheep and a clydesdale horse.

We enjoyed our visit and spent 2-3 hours around the site. The only thing we didn't like was the canned Celtic Music being played through a loudspeaker on the Visitor Centre across the car park. Fortunately it couldn't be heard around the site.

Website for the Highland Village Museum: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/hv/

Website with our pictures can be found here.  

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