DesBrisay Museum began in 1860 when a young lawyer, Mather Byles DesBrisay, born in Chester, Lunenburg County in 1828 (who later became M.L.A. and Judge of County Courts), started an artifact collection.
Unfortunately, most of that small collection was destroyed by fire in the boarding house in which he lived in the Town of Bridgewater.
DesBrisay slowly added to those few salvaged artifacts and eventually assembled another reputable collection in his residence on Pleasant Street, "Ivy Banks."
By 1880, this collection had grown to such proportions that it attracted the attention of local citizens, students, and tourists.
A letter dated 1880, written by a school teacher thanking Judge DesBrisay for the courtesies extended to her class during a visitation to his museum, sets the founding year of the DesBrisay Museum.
Following the death of Judge DesBrisay in April 1900, the collection was purchased by Mayor Edward Doran Davison Jr. from Ada DesBrisay (Judge DesBrisay's wife) in 1901, and presented to the Town of Bridgewater. It was then moved from the DesBrisay residence to the Court House in Bridgewater and placed under the care of William E. Marshall, L.L.B. In 1938, the need for extra space at the Court House made it necessary to move the collection elsewhere, and, thus, the Women's Institute of Bridgewater took care of the collection on the second floor of a building they occupied on King Street.
In the early 1950s, a committee consisting of one member each from the Women's Institute, the Lunenburg County Historical Society, and the Town of Bridgewater, constituted an advisory executive supported by a yearly grant from the Town of Bridgewater. In 1961, when the building was condemned and dismantled, the collection was put into storage at Acadia Gas Engine's warehouse in Bridgewater. It remained there until 1966 when it was moved to Bridgewater's completed Centennial Project, and the Museum's current location, on Jubilee Road. In the same year, Town Council appointed a Board of Trustees and Glen I.K. Feindel as Curator.
At an inaugural meeting of the newly appointed Board on February 18, 1966, a resolution was passed that the museum's theme should be "Interpreting and communicating to the general public the history of our country (especially Lunenburg County), our cultural growth, and our achievements in the field of arts and crafts." To this end, through the assistance and guidance of the Nova Scotia Museum, the museum collection was arranged chronologically to tell a story of Lunenburg County and its people. The museum has the distinction of having the oldest municipally owned collection in the Province of Nova Scotia. Canada's Centennial Commissioner, John Fisher, officially opened the new museum building on June 7th, 1967.
In 1972, the Chair of the Board and the Curator of the DesBrisay Museum were chosen as a committee to investigate the need for additional facilities to the existing building. And construction of a new wing encompassing an exhibit centre, workshop, storage facilities, etc. was completed in 1974.
In October 1987, members of the community met to form the Friends of the DesBrisay Museum, a volunteer organization to support the museum and its programs. They were officially incorporated in January 1988 with Brook Taylor as Chair.
The need for more space to hold meetings and events was again realized with a fundraising campaign undertaken by the Museum Commission and Friends' volunteers. On May 14, 1997, the campaign to enclose the breezeway and make a Multipurpose Room was officially opened. A new Gift Shop area and Reception was reconfigured, and a new entrance door was installed with a glass foyer.
Lt. Governor Myra Freeman visited the museum on July 9, 2002, and presented the museum with a certificate for recognition of outstanding efforts over the past 100 years.
The Museum is currently governed by a Commission of the Town of Bridgewater and is managed by the Town's Culture, Heritage, and Events Coordinator. Staff include a Museum Administrator and Museum Developer.
From sources by G.I.K. Feindel (September 1975) and Linda Bedford (March 2007)