The year was 1917 and Halifax, like the rest of the world, was fully embroiled in the First World War. Serving as the assembly and departure point for transatlantic convoys carrying supplies and soldiers to the war effort overseas, the small city was quickly evolving into a world class port and major base of naval operations.
Halifax was a hub of activity. Troops bound for battle swept in and out of the city, labourers flowed to and from work as the war created a significant industrial and residential boom, and children of all ages wandered to their schools for lessons. In a time of war and devastation, Halifax was thriving.
That all changed the morning of December 6, 1917. Approximately six minutes after 9:00 am, a dreadful mis-communication between two ships in the harbour resulted in an Explosion of cataclysmic proportions. 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 more were injured. The city was reduced to ruins and debris.
Considered Halifax's darkest day, the sheer magnitude of the traumatic event left a lasting impression on the city and its residents. The tragedy bred countless stories of courage and hope that in many ways, shaped what Halifax has become.
Recognizing the significance of the Halifax Explosion as part of both the city's history and Nova Scotian history, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic developed a temporary exhibit in 1987 entitled "A Moment in Time".
Focusing on Halifax before and after the tragedy, the display received such an overwhelming public response that several years later, staff at the Museum took on the major project of creating and opening “Halifax Wrecked”, a permanent exhibit devoted to the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
The award-winning exhibit takes visitors through the time line of the event, establishing what life in the city was like and breaking down the unfortunate circumstances that caused the tragedy. Featuring personal effects and stories of those who both perished and survived, the exhibit explores the Explosion from an anecdotal perspective, giving visitors a sense of the devastation that occurred, but more importantly, a sense of the city’s bravery in the face of adversity.