Anna Hamilton (1918-2002)
Founder of the North Shore Archives
Anna Hamilton was born in Brule Point, Colchester County, in 1918. She received her education at Pictou Academy, the Provincial Normal College, and Acadia University, where she completed her B.A. in 1942 and M.A. in 1954. Anna then went on to teach at Havergal College, Toronto, and later at Shelburne, Springhill, and Wolfville High Schools. In 1966 she joined the staff of the Nova Scotia Teachers College. After her retirement in 1976, Anna returned to Brule Point and devoted her time to volunteer work in the community. Much of her service centred on the United Church and the Maritime Conference Archives Committee.
Anna was dedicated to the cause of preserving the documentary heritage of the Tatamagouche region. Beginning in the 1960s, she and a group of volunteers began collecting historical materials. They visited people in the community searching for documents, papers, and books about the area. She and a friend once visited a former sea captain's house where they peeled back the wallpaper in order to see and photograph the intricate designs along the edges of the walls. In the early 1970s, the group's growing collection was taken to the top floor of the Lillian Fraser House and stored in boxes. Anna and the group of volunteers met once a month. During the winters, the group took some of the materials to their homes to keep them dry and safe. Interest grew and more volunteers came on board and helped with managing the collection. A government grant enabled students to be employed to assist with searching for sources and organizing the records. But the demands required to maintain an archival collection were difficult to meet especially as conditions in the Lillian Fraser House were not ideal for storing delicate papers and materials. Anna often took work home where she could be found in her kitchen surrounded by papers of all kinds.
In 1981, a committee was formed with the express purpose of caring for the archival collection. and Anna Hamilton was appointed President. In 1985, the collection was registered as the North Shore Archives. They needed a suitable and adequate space to welcome visitors and researchers, so storage cabinets were built to house some of the rapidly accumulating records – photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, books, manuscripts and genealogy records, school registers, letters, wills, ledgers, deeds, cemetery records and microfilm of the 1871, 1881, and 1891 censuses.
In 1995, the Municipality of Colchester recognized Anna’s commitment to volunteerism by awarding her the Pettigrew Leadership Award. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, she would not live to see the North Shore Archives find a more suitable home. Anna Hamilton died on July 10, 2002. In 2009, the North Shore Archives opened in the new Tatamagouche Heritage Centre (later the Margaret Fawcett Norrie Heritage Centre), providing adequate space and protection for the collection plus a reference room and office. In 2004, the Council of Nova Scotia Archives established an award in Anna Hamilton's name, which each year honours an outstanding volunteer who has served the Nova Scotian archival community with sincere dedication and in an exemplary fashion, just as Anna Hamilton did for many years.
The North Shore Archives’ goal was, and still is, to collect, organize and preserve local materials relevant to the genealogy, life, times, and history of the Tatamagouche area of Nova Scotia. The collection includes family records, obituaries, cemetery records, maps, newspaper clippings, and pictures relevant to Tatamagouche, Malagash, Wallace, Pugwash, Wentworth, and River John areas. Still a volunteer-run organization, the North Shore Archives has grown and evolved over the years. Its volunteers work diligently to meet the needs of those interested in tracing their ancestry and learning about the history of the region – all part of Anna Hamilton's legacy.