Earlier this year, four members of Man the Capstan ventured across the province to Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, where tucked beside the St. Mary’s river sits a picturesque village subsisting still within the late 19th century. Interested in all things historical, especially with respect to Nova Scotian history, the Capstan Crew thoroughly enjoyed themselves and resolved to return, particularly in costume!
We prepared to depart early in the morning on October 10th, this time skipping the Guysborough detour and heading straight down to Sherbrooke from New Glasgow. It was a far quicker drive than last time, and we pulled into the parking lot at a timely 1400 hrs (or thereabouts).
Of particular interest at Sherbrooke was their reputed ambrotype studio, one of the few working studios that still use the original method employed in the 1860s. For an incredible $40.00 tourists can get dressed up in a variety of costumes and outfits and have their picture taken! Having an ambrotype picture taken is a rewarding experience; the very act itself is a historical exercise. Let me tell you, it’s not like heading to Sears and getting your family portrait taken.
Susan, our photographer this time around (different from the lady we dealt with previously) was a true professional; she explained the process and arranged us in a timely manner; for my own picture it was decided it best to sit down, holding my chapeau in my lap and sitting in such a way so as to not cut my larger frame out of the shot—you don’t have a lot of room to work with, and we’d learn fairly quickly that it’s even harder to fit two people into a frame! Our photographer told us that there are a few “tricks” they use in order to get it just right.
In the end we had two shots taken; one with myself, and the other with Johanna and Steve. We were informed the process would take about 20-30 minutes, and that in the meantime Susan could introduce us to the costumers that were responsible for helping to make all the history “come alive” at Sherbrooke. We took a walk across the street and spoke with Meg and her assistant, Andrea. The wardrobe room was filled with dresses and men’s outfits, shoes, hats, simple gowns, fancy gowns, and a workshop that exuded a creative aura; this was indeed the place that old things rose to become something new and engaging.
Both Meg and Andrea were clearly passionate about their work (it seems that has been a trend for us; most history enthusiasts wouldn’t do what they do unless they loved it!) and we had a wonderful conversation with them. The 20-30 minutes passed quickly, and after passing a card to them, we headed back to secure our finished ambrotypes, which were spectacular!
I’d like to return to Sherbrooke again in uniform, perhaps in a busier part of the year so as to have a bit more fun with some fellow visitors. It’s a great place in Nova Scotia, and I hope that by writing this blog it may engender some additional interest; this sort of living history is rarely seen executed so well. You can visit Sherbrooke’s website here!
Until next time!