Gold: A Nova Scotia Treasure at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Thanks to my friends at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, I was delighted to learn that our province has a long and rich history with gold. Gold: A Nova Scotia Treasure is the newest exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, running from January 19, 2013 to March 31, 2013. I had the good fortune to attend a sneak peek of the exhibition last week and cannot wait for others to see this remarkable collection.

Gold Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Panning for Gold at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

From the first recorded discovery of gold in Nova Scotia in 1858, Gold tells the remarkable story of the metal in our province through multimedia and multiple disciplines. The exhibition is remarkable because this no mere collection of beautiful paintings, though there are lots of beautiful paintings.

The foundation for the exhibition is a collection of 15 watercolours by Frederick Nichols, a mining engineer who worked in gold mining and documented the exploration and extraction of gold in communities around the province. During these early days of gold mining, sketches and paintings were the most effective way to capture the work in progress, as photography of the day was both labour-intensive and unwieldy in such an environment.

Frederick Nichols Gold Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Paintings and field kit of Frederick Nichols

From there, Gold tells the story of Nova Scotian gold through a collaboration between the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton, incorporating contributions from the Nova Scotia Archives, the Department of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Museum.

I had some time to chat with Shannon Parker, curator of the exhibit, who, like me, was surprised by the extent of our province’s golden history. She spoke about the richness of material that came forward once the team started working on this project. In fact, the more they worked, the more they found, revealing a rather extraordinary, and often untold, part of Nova Scotia’s history. I couldn’t help but catch Shannon’s enthusiasm for the project, though she completely outdressed me that day with her gold-accented ensemble, right down to the shoes.

Gold Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

I think the multi-disciplinary approach to the exhibition will ensure its broad appeal. There is plenty of science to explain where gold is found and how it is extracted. From there, a set of newspaper clippings and photographs take visitors through the successes and the tragedies of the province’s gold mining industry, showing both its potential and heartbreak. An interactive map  identifies all of the known gold sites in the province, maybe to give hope to would-be future prospectors:

Gold Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

For those, like me, who enjoy shiny things, there’s a collection of elaborate gold jewelry (including this set I’m sure my Aunt Mary will also enjoy).

Gold jewelry Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

The exhibition also includes contributions from scores of “golden” Nova Scotians from the worlds of sport, music, science and more. For this popular culture junkie, I loved this section, it includes gold medals from a variety of sporting events, the Grammy won by Nova Scotian singer Anne Murray for her legendary piece of musical Canadiana, “Snowbird,” and the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics shared by Nova Scotian-born scientist Willard Boyle. Since I don’t understand a lot of the science behind it, I’ll simplify: work led by Dr. Boyle resulted in the sensor that eventually made digital photography possible.

Nobel Prize in Physics Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Gold sports arts Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

I’ll be back to see the exhibition again during its run, there were all kinds of things I want to see again. As I keep telling anyone who asks, there is something for most everyone here: science, art, shiny things, pretty things and incredibly rare things.

Once the exhibition finishes its run in Halifax, it hits the road for several more stops in Nova Scotia and beyond. A virtual museum will be launched in the near future for those who want to experience the exhibit, and it will contain even more information about the exhibition that couldn’t be included due to the space limitations.

Golden bonus material: The Grammy-winning tune, “Snowbird” by Anne Murray. Travel-related fact: over the years, a “snowbird” has become better known as a Canadian who goes south, usually to Florida, for the winter. Second, the Snowbirds are the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aerobatic flying squad.

See for yourself:
Gold: A Nova Scotia Treasure, January 19-March 31, 2013
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis St, Halifax




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