Notes and Comments / Nouvelles brèves - Material History Sources in Eighteenth-Century Nova Scotia Newspapers

Notes and Comments / Nouvelles brèves

Material History Sources in Eighteenth-Century Nova Scotia Newspapers

Claudia Haagan
Nova Scotia Museum

1 This past summer, the Nova Scotia Museum undertook to continue and adapt a project originally conceived and carried out by the Newfoundland Museum in 1979. (See V. Dickenson and V. Kolonel, "Computer-Based Archival Research Project: A Preliminary Report," Material History Bulletin 10 [Spring 1980]: 31-61) The original project attempted to record for computer retrieval the commodities (goods and services) available to Newfoundland in the nineteenth century from the advertisements of extant newspapers. In Nova Scotia, newspapers, which were first published in Halifax in 1752, represent one of a few continuous sources of historical documentation for the latter half of the eighteenth century. Thus, this period became the logical point of departure for this project.

2 The original scope of the project was expanded to reflect a broader understanding of material history in keeping with the increasing sophistication of collection documentation and research requirements. Consequently, a comprehensive classification and indexing of all advertisements and announcements was undertaken with the exception of government proclamations which are already included in conventional government records. This resulted in 1,400 records, approximately half of the potential material for the period between 1752 and 1800. Of these, 42 per cent were specifically product advertisements of imported and local goods for sale or the occasional request for goods to purchase, 20 per cent were land transactions, and the remaining 40 per cent included annoucements of services, stray property (lost, stolen or wandering in the case of livestock), descriptions of runaway slaves, apprentices, and wives (often with detailed costume descriptions), and announcements of social events and society meetings.

3 This project was undertaken in collaboration with the National Museum of Man's Atlantic Provinces historian, Peter Rider, and funded through both the National Museum of Man and the Canada Employment and Immigration Centre under the Career-Oriented Summer Employment Programme (COSEP). Five students were employed for a period of 18 weeks. An index to this material is in progress for eventual data entry and computer retrieval, and a more detailed account of the project will follow in the next issue of the Bulletin.

Claudia Haagan