News release

Rare Halifax Explosion Film Footage On Web Site

Visitors to the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management Web site now have the opportunity to view rare film footage shot in the aftermath of the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

Six minutes of black-and-white moving images, attributed to professional cameraman W.G. MacLaughlan, document in eerie silence and jerky movements the waste and devastation of a city destroyed, and the efforts that went into rebuilding it. These moving images can be found on the Web site at .

Mr. MacLaughlan, a native of Charlottetown, P.E.I., operated a photographic studio in Halifax and was the official military photographer for the city of Halifax during the First World War.

The film is an early news documentary from the silent-screen era. The original captions have been retained and are used to divide the footage into manageable segments for online viewing. Beginning with footage shot on Dec. 7, the day after the explosion, the film continues with scenes of reconstruction in the city's north end, and concludes with views of the Hydrostone district under construction by mid-1918.

The footage is complemented by five first-hand survivor accounts of the explosion, held in the archives' collections and now presented online in digitized form. The descriptions range from a letter written three days after the blast by a young Halifax housewife, to the reminiscences of a 77-year-old woman in 1985, looking back to when she was nine years old at Chebucto School.

"These new online resources have resulted from our recent partnership with CBC Television," said provincial archivist Brian Speirs. "Helping them to identify archival material for their Halifax Explosion programming reminded us how interested people are in discovering more about this disaster."

These new online products join two popular resources introduced last December to the archives' Web site. The Vision of Regeneration is a virtual exhibit showing how Halifax was rebuilt following the disaster. The Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book - A List of Those Who Died is a searchable database which last year contained information for 1,951 casualties. Since then, archives' staff have identified two previously unknown victims of the disaster.

The most important archival resource for studying the Halifax Explosion is the nearly 60 metres of records accumulated by the Halifax Relief Commission, 1917-1978. A brief description of this material rounds out the new online products. Plans are underway to provide electronic access to the Relief Commission Pension Claims via further database and digitization activities.

The Web site of the public archives is the primary means of reaching out to Nova Scotians who can use the archives as an opportunity for lifelong learning.


Rare film footage, shot in the aftermath of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, can now be seen on the Web site of the Nova Scotia Public Archives.

Six minutes of black-and-white images document the waste and devastation of a city destroyed, and the efforts that went into rebuilding it.

The footage is attributed to professional cameraman W-G MacLaughlan.

The public archives has other online resources on the Halifax Explosion available on its Web site.



Lois Yorke
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management 902-424-6068 E-mail:
kjd            October 29, 2003         12:28 P.M.