A pop-up museum at Acadia University in Wolfville will bring together African Nova Scotians whose relatives went to the First World War in the No. 2 Construction Battalion and other units.
“We are marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War by remembering the contributions of Nova Scotian communities to the conflict and the war’s impact on our communities,” said Tony Ince, Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage. “The pop-up museum is an opportunity to honour and learn more about the contributions of African Nova Scotians.”
Rev. William A. White, who will be featured in the museum, was Acadia’s second black graduate (1903), the only African Canadian commissioned officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the chaplain for the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s only segregated unit in the First World War.
The Canadian military resisted African Canadian enlistment until 1916, when petitions and letters to members of Parliament were finally successful. The soldiers of the No. 2 served courageously in England and France, providing essential support services for the war effort. Much of the oral history of community experiences during the war have been lost as veterans have died. The pop-up museum will allow some of those memories and experiences to be captured, as families bring stories, artifacts, documents or photographs for discussion with specialists on such sources.
The pop-up museum will be held at the Fountain Commons of the university, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. Descendants of No. 2 Construction Battalion veterans are invited to bring with them letters, documents, medals, parts of uniforms, photographs or other historical items pertaining to their ancestors’ service.
Artifacts and documents can be scanned or photographed to eventually form a digitized online archive so students, teachers, scholars, members of the community and the public can learn more about Rev. White and the No. 2 Construction Battalion.
“Pop-up museums are a new kind of event where specialists and the public can share family stories, memories, research, and knowledge, and tips on preserving objects and documents,” said Claudine Bonner, Acadia University. “The pop-up will allow specialists and the descendants of the members of the battalion a richer understanding of the wartime experiences of African Nova Scotians.”
For information on admission and to register in advance, visit www.blackbattalion.com, or call 902-585-1296 or 902-495-0815.
The pop-up museum was organized by several partners, including Acadia University public history students, the Nova Scotia Museum, the Nova Scotia Archives and the Army Museum Halifax Citadel.