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About, Shelb Mus Complex, 1.jpg
Shelburne Historical Society

Protecting and interpreting history

Shelburne’s Museums by the Sea, along with a dozen historic buildings and stunning green spaces, comprise Shelburne’s historic waterfront on Dock Street.


Since 1976, the not-for-profit Shelburne Historical Society has been the caretaker of Shelburne’s Museums by the Sea, overseeing and expanding a collection of important properties and artefacts, as well as researching and writing the history of Shelburne. Many books, published by local authors and early members like Marion Robertson, Mary Archibald and Eleanor Smith, provide valuable reference works for the Society.  


In partnership with the Province of Nova Scotia, the Society created two sites- the Ross-Thomson House and Store Museum, and the Dory Shop Museum, officially opened by Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1983. The Society also created the Shelburne County Museum in the historic Nairn House to exhibit important holdings and to encourage research.


In 1986, the Society took over the Cox Warehouse which was constructed in 1902.  The building was originally the George A. Cox Department Store, one of the largest on the south shore. The store moved to Water Street in 1928, where Shelburne Furniture is now located.  The steeple, not original to the building, was added in 1994 for the filming of Scarlet Letter and has since become an iconic landmark on Shelburne’s waterfront.


In 2001, the Society took ownership of the Nairn House, which was built in 1784, and where the Shelburne County Museum is currently located. The Coyle House, situated next door and  also built circa 1784, holds Tottie’s Crafts where volunteers sell their own fine handicrafts like quilts and hooked rugs, as well as other unique and locally-crafted items.

The Shelburne Historical Society sees itself as a vital part of the community as it works to protect, restore and interpret the evolving heritage of this historic town and its waterfront. The Society’s holdings are an important economic driver, not just for attracting visitors, but for instilling pride in the community’s heritage and natural features, thus enriching the quality of life for those lucky enough to live here.

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