Ava O.

Digby, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Provincial Heritage Fair

The Untold Story of the Digby Municipality

My heritage fair project is on abandoned structures in the municipality of Digby. I picked this topic because I thought it would be an interesting way to learn about my community. My father tears down building as part of his job, so I’ve heard a lot stories from him which peaked my interest. To conduct my research I drove on every road in the Municipality of Digby. I captured photos of 340 abandoned structures that I found and put them in a slideshow as part of my presentation. I decided to interview Municipal Warden, Jimmy MacAlpine on abandoned structures in the area to further my research. There are no statistics on the number of abandoned structures in municipality of Digby. The only data I have is the informal data I collected by traveling throughout the municipality and taking photographs of structures I determined to be abandoned. I think our communities are changing and we are letting part of our heritage disappear by not restoring or maintaining these structures. Some of these structures are important to our local history. The amount of abandoned structures also raises important questions regarding our population and the future of rural communities.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?

The most interesting thing I learned about my topic was that we may have lost 20% of our population in our local, rural communities in the last 20 years and how many more abandoned or empty structures there are now. Many rural communities in Canada are facing declining populations which contributes to abandoned and empty structures being left behind.

What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?

I learned there is a rural to urban shift in where people are living. People are moving to other areas for more opportunities. Older generations are dying and or moving to assisted living facilities or other areas for more accessible care or services. We need to consider how abandoned structures are affecting our communities. If no one knows about the stories of our past, then I believe we will slowly lose a part of our heritage. My project is a glimpse into the changing history of our community and it is an example of how many rural communities across Canada are changing.

How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?

In grade 7 social studies this year, I learned that hundreds of years ago people were moving from rural to urban places for more opportunities. I think previous generations in rural communities often grew more of their own food and much of the work was done by hand such as cutting their own fire wood and keeping farm animals. Today, we have more modern conveniences; technology and social media are available at our fingertips. Even though things may be easier for us to access today, people continue to leave rural communities and as a result many homes and buildings are left abandoned or empty.