Big changes ahead as naval museum marks 50th anniversary

On the left – the naval museum as it existed in the 1970’s, in its original home on the third floor of Admiralty House. On the right – the current lobby of the Naval Museum of Halifax features a new television display as part of the interior makeover. SUBMITTED

Big changes ahead as naval museum marks 50th anniversary

By Nathan Stone,
Trident Staff

The Naval Museum of Halifax is preparing for a year of renewal as it celebrates 50 years in operation this month. 

Opening its doors for the first time on March 26th, 1974, the museum has stood as a monument to the history of the Royal Canadian Navy and those who’ve contributed to its storied past. Originally operating on the third floor of Admiralty House on the grounds of Canadian Forces Base Halifax, the museum eventually expanded to fill the entire building. Now the museum is preparing for major renovations, inside and out, as it looks to the future. 

An exterior facelift planned for the third quarter of 2024 will restore the facade of Admiralty House. At the same time, staff will be working on the inside to overhaul the collection. 

“We’re using the construction to kick off a whole reinterpretation of the museum,” says Jennifer Denty, the museum’s Director. 

Denty says the museum is working to identify the most important stories to highlight and how best to help visitors understand their significance. 

Museum staff are also looking at filling gaps in the current collection during the renovations. A list of potential new features includes a children’s area with hands-on activities, and a display on the Korean War. 

Richard Sanderson has been involved with the Naval Museum for years, as museum Director from 2010-2019, and now as a researcher. He says the coming refresh is an opportunity to evaluate existing displays while the team considers additions.

“Each of the areas of the museum will go through its physical rehab, then new exhibits will be brought in to that, so we’ll be looking at what are the stories we want to tell and how.”

There’s also plenty going on around the museum before the renovation work begins. In May, the museum is partnering with Halifax Public Libraries for a community outreach project – a display on the history of women in the Royal Canadian Navy is being loaned to the Halifax Central Library for public viewing through the month.

In June, the museum will be throwing a birthday party to officially celebrate its 50th. The party is being planned not only as a celebration of the past, but a look ahead to the future. The party’s date is still to be determined, but Denty says that holding the event in June coincides with the start of the museum’s busy season and that the summer weather should help encourage people to attend. 

“We’re hoping to make it as accessible as possible.” 

Celebrating the 50-year milestone isn’t just about the museum and its collection of artefacts, but about the staff and volunteers that have helped shape the museum, says Denty. 

“We have a really great crew of volunteers, some of whom have been volunteering here since before I was born… so we’re taking a minute to celebrate their contributions.”