As of April 2014, the Old Sydney Society, whose main office can be found in the Lyceum near the corner of George and Dorchester in Sydney’s Northend, is under the direction of a new curator. Vanessa Childs Rolls, resident of the Northend is eager to be heading up this important organization at this time.
“We see a number great opportunities now and into the future for the Old Sydney Society,” says Childs Rolls. “From exhibits that are relevant and enticing to local residents, to summer programs for youth and young adults, and a renewed emphasis on the preservation of our built heritage and architecture across the CBRM, it is an exciting time for the Society.”
Founded in 1966 by Robert (Bob) Morgan in response to the likely demolition of St. Pat’s Church, the Society began its earliest work with a heritage preservation mandate. Along with a number of students from his St. FX Extension Department classes, Dr. Morgan succeeded in saving and restoring this now familiar landmark.
Today the Society offers a number of resident and visitor experiences including Ghost Walks, Heritage/Historic Walking Tours (in cooperation with Jost House), and exhibits that explore our history with an emphasis on story. “Our stories are so important and we often don’t (or haven’t been encouraged to) acknowledge them as history, but they undoubtedly connect us to each other and to our past.” The Society is presently working on a story telling round table. The event, which will be open to the public, will consist of a panel of story tellers brought together to share stories on a particular subject, followed by an opportunity for audience members to contribute to what has been offered by panelists.
Exhibits currently on display in the Lyceum and St. Pat’s are thick with stories of the people and places of Cape Breton. A Community History: Through the Lens of Abbass Studios offers photographic glimpses into the mundane and the ceremonial of our recent past. Admission to the exhibit is by donation and the event runs through to November. St. Patrick’s Church on the Esplanade shares stories of Sydney during the First World War in War at Home.
With the Abbass exhibit now installed, The Old Sydney Society is gearing up now for an entirely new experience – summer history camps for youth. Open to those ages six and up, the camps will run every Thursday in July and August from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Each Thursday will introduce a new hands-on theme from pirates to Vikings to radio to science.
Participants will travel through stations set up at the Lyceum, Cossit House and St. Pat’s, learning as they traverse to and through some of the oldest properties in the municipality.
Cost of the camps is $25 per day (or $20 per day for members) and participants must bring their own lunch.
For Childs Rolls, the relationship between the Old Sydney Society and the Northend is an important and long standing one. “I think we’ve seen, for longer than many in the CBRM, the great and inherent value in the Northend. We’ve been a long-time advocate for heritage preservation here and were a central participant in urging the municipality to pursue the establishment of the heritage district. We know there is something quite special about this neighbourhood. We also know how quickly that can slip away. Today, we see a renewed connection between the organization and the community as key to the continued relevance of the organization and to the ongoing dialogue that is needed to ensure that our heritage assets are always valued and protected.”
Visit the Old Sydney Society’s website (www.oldsydney.com) or Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/OldSydneySociety) for more information on upcoming events and schedules for Ghost Walks, Heritage/Historic Walking Tours, their History Speaks lecture series, and the youth summer camps planned for this summer. To arrange a Ghost or Walking Tour (for groups of five or more) or to register for a summer camp, call 539-1572.