Halifax Explosion

100 years in a box: inside the new Halifax Explosion time capsule

Official letters, debris fragments and artwork among contents

The capsule, wrapped in plastic, will be filled with the items before Dec. 6.   Celie Deagle

After Renee Gruszecki goes grocery shopping on Dec. 6, the receipt will be saved for 50 years in a steel box inside the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower.

Gruszecki is a member of the Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Special Advisory Committee. She met with other committee members on Wednesday afternoon in Dartmouth to finalize the contents of a new time capsule. She volunteered to provide the receipt at the meeting and joked that people might find her vegetarian diet interesting in 50 years.

Gruszecki’s receipt will join ones from 1985 and 1917 inside the new capsule, which will honour the Explosion’s centennial. The committee will open the original box from 1985 after the anniversary.

Craig Walkington, chair of the committee, said the group aims to preserve centennial events and new historical findings for future generations.   

“We want to have a time capsule that, when it’s opened in 50 years time, people will say, ‘OK, that’s what they were thinking at the time; that’s what their ideas were behind the commemorative activities for the centennial of the Explosion,” he said.

Dec. 6 will mark 100 years since the Norwegian SS Imo collided with the French SS Mont Blanc, which was carrying explosives. The collision occurred in The Narrows, a channel of water which connects the Halifax Harbour with Bedford Basin. The resulting blast killed nearly 2,000 people, injured another 9,000 and was the largest man-made explosion prior to the use of atomic weapons.

Letters and artwork that will be placed inside the time capsule.   Celie Deagle

The cube capsule, which is a bit longer than a footlong sandwich, is made of stainless steel. Along with Gruszecki’s receipt, it will hold around 24 other items. These include official letters from Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a poem commissioned from Canada’s Parliamentary poet laureate George Elliott Clarke and the first official copy of the commemorative stamp released earlier this month.

The capsule will also contain a painted tile from a mosaic created by students at St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay Elementary and a signed copy of historian Janet Kitz’s book, Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery.

Despite the capsule’s connection to the Explosion, the committee initially decided to leave out historical artifacts.

“We felt that the artifacts should be on display and not locked up in a capsule,” Walkington said.

However, on Wednesday, the committee agreed to include shards of glass and pottery found during construction of the bell tower in Fort Needham Memorial Park, which overlooks the area the blast destroyed. 

The centennial ceremony will take place near the Halifax Memorial Bell Tower, which is currently undergoing repairs.   Celie Deagle

The committee members, all of whom are volunteers, have been working since January to decide upon the capsule’s contents.

“We wanted this to be our project, something that we could personalize and put our own thoughts and our own objectives into,” Walkington said.

With that in mind, the committee decided to open the capsule in 2067. 

“I probably won’t be alive; I’ll be 107,” Walkington said, “But we would like it to exist so that when it is opened, there will be people alive today who can say, ‘I remember that.’”