My Favourite Artifact, by Courtney Mrazek

My name is Courtney Mrazek and I have been a heritage interpreter at Evergreen and Quaker House for the last three summers.

The time I have spent at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum has afforded me valuable skills across many arenas, including practical and hands on experience with public history, archives, management of artifacts, as well as team-building activities. I worked at the museum through two degrees; my undergraduate degree in History at Mount Saint Vincent University, and my master’s degree in History at Saint Mary’s University.

I’m moving tomorrow, September 4th, to Fredericton to begin my PhD at the University of New Brunswick. I would like to say thank you to everyone in the community and through
the museum who has helped and guided me these past few years, especially Bonnie. You’ve all been amazing.

It was very difficult to choose my favourite artifact to write about – there are so many wonderful gems throughout our collection. However, I chose the distinguished silk top hot that is currently featured next to Joseph Howe in the red parlour, on the sofa. This black silk hat is of the 1900 top hat style, popular in North America. The stamp on the inside linen reads “Christy’s London: Manufactured expressly for Coleman and Co. 143 Granville Street, Halifax NS.” The size is 6 ¾.

I chose this top hat because it historically ties the fur trade to our story in Dartmouth. The fur trade was one economic incentive that spurred permanent European settlements here, rather than the previous mode of temporary seasonal settlements for resources.

Fur, especially beaver pelts, was highly coveted material for hats. When fur became scarce (after so many years of overhunting for material gain) silk plush took center stage, although the top hats were still referred to as “beavers.” Our top hat at Evergreen is a symbol of Canadian history, both environmental history and colonization and settlements.