Industrial Archaeology

Industrial Archaeology

Sydney Steel Rail Mill

In addition to understanding artifacts, we learn about Nova Scotia’s industrial past through industrial archaeology (IA). IA is the study of the tangible evidence of social, economic and technological development of the period since industrialization. It includes buried foundations, features, and remnants normally associated with archaeological study, such as the foundry, locomotive shed and miner’s house found on our site. But equally important, it includes the landscapes, buildings, sites and structures still evident in some form around us. It is the rows of identical houses close to a vacant lot that once held a pithead; it is the uniformly-shaped manmade stream that once was a mill-race supporting water-powered factories; it is the canal that employed the technology to move vessels from one body of water to another, thereby bringing goods to market more economically. In Nova Scotia you can find it in old canneries and remnant pilings of piers, in street names and neighbourhoods, in architecture, and in slag heaps.

One thing is for certain – it is rapidly disappearing. As we move beyond the Industrial Age, once dominated by resource exploitation like mining, lumbering, and manufacturing this physical evidence is becoming harder to find. There is little trace of the substantial operations of the Sydney steel works, countless factories have disappeared, and the spatial arrangements of industrial towns are changing as the old makes way for the new. Former beehives of activity are now returning to nature. So look around you in the towns and in the woods, to see what your surroundings might tell you about the Nova Scotia of the past and the ways our parents and grandparents lived. If you see something interesting, let us know. It is part of our job to document this heritage before it is gone forever.   Contact us at or 902-755-5425.

Launch our Industrial Archaeology slideshow »

Learn more about Industrial Archaeology in Nova Scotia