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Isle Royale, 1744. N. Bellin. Map 711. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University

The story of Cape Breton Island's musical heritage is rich and diverse, and exists as a unique contribution to the Canadian cultural landscape. The history of Cape Breton, like many communities in Canada, can be explored through its distinct musical traditions. The intention of this virtual exhibit is to illustrate the richness of diversity and the unifying role that music has played, and continues to play, in our lives.

Here we present to you a sample of the Beaton Institute's archival holdings featuring songs and photographs from Cape Breton Island's Mi'kmaq, Acadian, Gaelic, and coal mining communities. Each of these vibrant song traditions reflects the diversity of stories, languages, cultural perspectives, and more. However, there is evidence of unity within this diversity, through shared characteristics, geography, the role of tradition bearers, relationships to the land, stories of immigration and struggle, folklore and history.

Over 100 exceptional and rarely heard recordings from a variety of formats are made available along with valuable supplementary and educational materials such as song histories, lyrics and images. In preserving and sharing these archival recordings, it is our hope that these songs will inspire future generations of music-makers, collectors, students, educators and lifelong learners.

Ultimately, making our musical heritage accessible to future generations will serve to keep our traditions alive and help provide an example of diverse groups exploring and retaining unity through music.