Passion … for preservation

Community Featured

The Pictou Historical Photograph Society is preserving the town’s history, one photo at a time.

“If you want your town to survive, you have to take an interest and do something that you have a passion for and is of value,” says member Beth Henderson.

She practices what she preaches.

Henderson has been a member of the PHPS since its inception 17 years ago. She is among the 20 other members who have a passion for preserving the town’s history.

Her home, just three miles outside of the Town of Pictou in Three Brooks, is a virtual treasure trove of Pictou artifacts and memorabilia. And photos — she has countless computer hard drives that contain literally thousands of photos relating to Pictou and its history that have been collected by members over the years.

The group started when Henderson retired from Scotiabank. “I didn’t have any plans for when I retired,” Henderson shrugs, “but life just happens.”

She and a handful of friends interested in preserving the town’s history formed a group in Henderson’s ‘think tank’ — or back porch — to get the ball rolling. The group decided to put together their first photo exhibit titled, The Way We Were. That exhibit at the Hector Centre featured the photo album of William Munro, Pictou’s photographic artist.

“From that, well, it was THE beginning.”

The exhibit attracted the interest of former Pictou resident Don MacIsaac, who collected photos of Pictou for 70-plus years. He became a valued member of and mentor to the PHPS. His contributions to the group still bring Henderson to tears when she recalls his memory.

After two successful exhibits at the Hector Centre, the group put together an exhibit titled Pictou in the 50s, but its size was larger than the space the Hector Centre could accommodate. So they moved this one to the deCoste Centre. Over the years, the PHPS put together 11 exhibits containing about 125 photos each.

Recently, the PHPS worked with Phillip MacKenzie and Clyde Macdonald in a plaque board project. “We provided 35 plaque boards throughout the town. You can see them at the post office and at Scotiabank,” she explains. As a result, the project continued throughout the county.

Henderson makes special mention of John Marshall for his contributions to the group. “He is unbelievably kind. Any photos he may get he’ll allow me to borrow and scan, then return them.” She laughs when she notes that she returns his kindness with homemade biscuits and scotch cookies.

And member Dave MacKeil started the group’s Facebook page. This has approximately 3,300 followers — and continues to grow.

Also helping the group over the years in various ways have been Scotiabank, Pictou Academy Educational Foundation, Advocate Printing and Publishing and Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library which hosts the group’s website.

The PHPS is doing more than satisfying curiosity; it is providing a valuable service. “We’ve provided photos for authors, for example Marian Bruce; the BBC wanted photos for a film they were doing; we helped with the CBC’s Boys From Pictou production…” The group also provides the Flashback photos for The Advocate and all of the historic photos for The Advocate’s Then and Now calendar. The work done by this group is endless.

Through the group’s website,, hundreds of comments and requests are generated. Henderson says she hears from people all over the world looking for historic information and more.

“We have been fortunate to have had many people share their photos with us and would happily welcome more. Those who have photos to share can send an email to We will arrange to scan and return the photos.”

Lately, the group had been working with the Town of Pictou in installing panels along the downtown core that tell of the town’s history: a panel at Market Square was placed by the Pictou Garden Club, of which Henderson is also a member; a panel on Caladh Avenue tells of the history of the CN Station and that area. A third panel planned for another spot on Caladh Avenue on the town’s waterfront will tell of Pictou’s shipping history.

“We’ll do it as long as the interest is there,” says Henderson.