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Halifax Resources

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E.L.Q. Collection Resources

The Disaster Research Center's E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection is home to numerous documents and photographs related to the Halifax Explosion.

Additionally, resources are available in the broader categories of explosions, maritime disasters, and disaster recovery (among many others), which may be relevant to the interests of researchers studying the Halifax Explosion.

Click here for a listing of DRC Collection resources on the Halifax Explosion.

For more information regarding resources available in any of these categories, email Resource Collection Coordinator Pat Young at

​The Scanlon Collection

Dr. T. Joseph Scanlon, professor emeritus at Carleton University, left his personal and professional papers to the E.L. Quarantelli Resource Collection upon his death in 2015. Dr. Scanlon had long been interested in the Halifax Explosion and published a number of scholarly papers on the topic (see DRC Collection Resources).

In addition, he left behind a treasure trove of handwritten notes, documents, and correspondence with Halifax residents and family members of individuals affected by the disaster. These documents are available to registered researchers, by appointment at the Disaster Research Center.

Click here for an inventory of Halifax material from the T. Joseph Scanlon Papers

Disaster's Little Known Pioneer: Samuel Prince

Anglican priest and scholar Samuel Prince used the Halifax Explosion as the subject for his doctoral dissertation in one of the first known examples of disaster research. In Catastrophe and Social Change, Prince outlines a theory of Collective Behavior that laid the groundwork for much of social scientific disaster research as we know it today.

Read more about Samuel Prince and his work here.

Web Resources

​Photo credit: Nova Scotia Archives

100 Years, 100 Stories

"To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion we're sharing 100 stories, from the tragic to the courageous to the hard to believe.

There is more to remember about the Halifax Explosion than the collision of two ships and the historic blast. We remember the tragic devastation, but we also remember the perseverance and how people came together to rebuild after the explosion. We remember the courage and rescue efforts. We remember the tremendous compassion that was shown as help poured in from across the province, our neighbors in the U.S. and even around the world.

Leading up to the anniversary on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, we will share the many stories of this historic event. We will honor a time when the worst imaginable tragedy came upon us and brought out the best in us as we overcame it."

Download the "Drifts" App

This app is only available in the App Store for iOS devices.

"Explore the debris field of the 1917 explosion in the Halifax harbor, encountering ruins, scars, shards, and fragments from the disaster. Immerse yourself in an interactive guide of ‘drifts’ (suggested walking routes) that tell stories about the past and present. Share your own images and experiences … and stay safe in the debris field."

Africville and the 1917 Halifax Explosion

"Shortly after 9 a.m. on Dec. 6, 1917 a vessel carrying munitions exploded in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour, devastating much of the north end of the city. Two popular myths have emerged from that event: Africville, a black neighborhood on the shores of Bedford Basin, escaped destruction, sheltered by the heights of the Halifax peninsula; and, following the explosion, Halifax Relief authorities deliberately denied reconstruction aid to Africville. Although mutually-exclusive, neither myth bears close scrutiny."

Featured Books

Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era

Jacob A.C. Remes

From the publisher: "A century ago, governments buoyed by Progressive Era–beliefs began to assume greater responsibility for protecting and rescuing citizens. Yet the aftermath of two disasters in the United States–Canada borderlands--the Salem Fire of 1914 and the Halifax Explosion of 1917--saw working class survivors instead turn to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members for succor and aid. Both official and unofficial responses, meanwhile, showed how the United States and Canada were linked by experts, workers, and money. In Disaster Citizenship, Jacob A. C. Remes draws on histories of the Salem and Halifax events to explore the institutions--both formal and informal--that ordinary people relied upon in times of crisis. He explores patterns and traditions of self-help, informal order, and solidarity and details how people adapted these traditions when necessary. Yet, as he shows, these methods--though often quick and effective--remained illegible to reformers. Indeed, soldiers, social workers, and reformers wielding extraordinary emergency powers challenged these grassroots practices to impose progressive "solutions" on what they wrongly imagined to be a fractured social landscape."  This item is available in the DRC Resource Collection.

6/12/17: The Halifax Explosion

John Boileau

From the publisher: "On December 6, 1917, two tramp steamers, the Mont-Blanc and the Imo, collided in wartime Halifax Harbour, creating what became the largest man-made explosion of its time. More than 2000 people died, 9,000 were injured, 6,000 people were left homeless and an additional 19,000 were left without adequate shelter. In a combination of words and images (many never seen before), John Boileau delivers a breathtaking account of the magnitude of this event."

John Boileau is also the author of Halifax and Titanic, which explores rescue and recovery operations after the sinking of the ill-fated ship, and the relationship between the city and the unprecedented tragedy. The town's experience with Titanic ultimately shaped the way it responded to its own tragedy just five years later. 

Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery

Janet F. Kitz

From the Publisher: "In December 1917 Halifax was alive with excitement. The streets were filled with troops, and the city, far removed from the bitter fighting in Europe, was reaping all the advantages of war. On the morning of December 6, however, the bloodshed came to Halifax with a vengeance when a French munitions ship and a Belgian relief vessel collided in the harbor. The munitions vessel drifted into the North End and exploded, killing more than sixteen hundred people instantly, wounding more than nine thousand others, and damaging or destroying approximately twelve thousand buildings. The complete devastation covered an area of 325 acres, and hardly a window in the city was left intact. The statistics are astounding enough, but the testimonies from survivors are even more astonishing."  

Janet Kitz went on to write two follow-up books: Survivors: Children of the Halifax Explosion (2000) which explored in more detail the stories of children who survived and December 1917: Revisiting the Halifax Explosion (2006) with Joan Payzant which looked at the impact of the explosion on the landscape of Halifax and Dartmouth. A CBC television miniseries in 2004 Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion took the same title of the book, but the miniseries had no connection to the book or its author. This book is available in the DRC Collection.

Interactive Maps

Where Halifax Residents Lived in 1917

"When Global News, along with Fred Vallance-Jones of the King’s College journalism school and his students, set out to map the dead of the Halifax Explosion, we quickly found that one of the biggest problems was caused by the explosion itself.

The explosion was the worst single event that has ever happened in Canada, in terms of loss of life, and the largest human-caused detonation until the U.S. atomic tests in 1945.

It also left parts of the North End as a blank slate. The Frasers’ neighbourhood was largely erased by the blast wave, the tsunami caused as the vast detonation forced the waters of the harbour itself far up the shore, and fires started in the wooden wreckage as wood stoves and kerosene lamps overturned

When it came time to rebuild what was formally referred to as the “devastated area,” in some places a new street system was laid out. A renumbering of Halifax’s streets in the 1960s confuses things further.

We started with a list of 1,836 known dead from the Nova Scotia Archives. Of these, 1,439 were Halifax residents with addresses that could be placed on the map of modern Halifax."

Map #1: Main Casualty Map

Map #2: Children's Map

Art Exhibitions

​Arthur Lismer, Sorrow, 1917. Collection of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

​Dalhousie Art Gallery


"From 12 October through 17 December 2017, the Dalhousie Art Gallery will present five projects to commemorate the centennial year of the Halifax Explosion, a maritime disaster that occurred on the morning of 6 December 1917 as the result of a collision between the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, and the SS Imo, a Norwegian relief vessel. The two ships collided in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to the Bedford Basin. Approximately 2,000 people were killed by the immediate blast, its concussion, and its debris, or by the resultant fires that engulfed collapsed buildings. An estimated 9,000 others were injured. The historical narrative of the Explosion is often considered from a military point of view. As an alternative approach to this well examined event, the Dalhousie Art Gallery is working with several artists, urban planners, social historians, cartographers, and architects to explore its various social and cultural impacts, and will present five exhibitions:

Walking the Debris Field: Public Geographies of the Halifax Explosion | Narratives in Space + Time Society

Claire Hodge: Negotiations | Curated by Peter Dykhuis

Arthur Lismer and the Halifax Explosion | Curated by Paige Connell and Peter Dykhuis

Arthur Lismer and The Drama of a City | Selection of printed matter curated by Alan Ruffman

From 2D to 3D: Mapping Halifax Over Time | Organised by James Boxall, Director, GISciences Centre, Dalhousie University

Click here for more information.

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  • Disaster Research Center
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