Wandering the halls of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, it’s not all that hard to imagine that, not so many years ago, these buildings were bustling with a different kind of activity. In fact this entire stretch of waterfront, only relatively recently saw its gritty wharves and railway tracks replaced with parking lots, gift shops, and tour booths. An amalgamation of these water lots and shipbuilding premises, in the 1920s became the home of Lunenburg Sea Products (formerly the fishing firm WC Smith and Company founded in 1899). Eventually, as National Sea Products, the fish company giant’s holdings stretched the width of two full blocks before outgrowing the area and moving operations to Battery Point. Out there, visible still at the entrance to the harbour, High Liner Foods, once the second largest fish plant in the world, made Captain High Liner a household name. Operating today primarily as a food packaging and processing plant High Liner is still a major area employer.
But back in the day, it all happened, right here. Salt and frozen fish, a cannery, cooked fish products, barrels, bait, fish-meal, ships chandlery, boats coming and going. This was place was at the heart of it all.
Even today it is not unusual for some salt remnants to drop down on the counters of the museum’s gift shop, so saturated with salt were the timbers that even now, all it takes is a “moist” day to release the by product of years of salt fish preparation.
This property is a far cry from the 1967 Centennial Year project that saw a small shack of a gift shop, an aquarium of local species fish and one ship open to the public as the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum. The popularity of this place is in its authenticity, real people telling real tales of the industry that made this town. Real boats – like the Theresa E Connor, the last salt banker to ever fish from this port - and artifacts displayed in authentic surroundings you could not replicate if you tried. The sights, smells and stories are all that and more. Make sure to allow yourself at least a few hours to take in the many displays on fishing, rum running, Bluenose and more, the rare and unique movies at the Ice House theatre, and hands-on demonstrations offered daily all summer and even by appointment in the off season. Operated by the volunteer-directed Lunenburg Marine Museum Society, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is part of the Nova Scotia Museums system. The Society is also responsible for operating Bluenose II, currently being outfitted in Lunenburg following an extensive restoration project. You can learn more about the legacy of Bluenose at the Bluenose Wharf location.