I’ve been volunteering at the Canoe Museum since the start of the year, helping update contact lists and keeping the computer database current. But last week I got to volunteer in a different capacity when my class came here on assignment to help with exhibit maintenance. Studying Conservation and Collections Management at Fleming College, we learn the nuts and bolts of what happens behind the scenes at a museum; from creating optimal environmental conditions, to artefact cleaning. The majority of our time is spent in the Fleming Conservation lab. Having the Canoe Museum open its doors to us, and allow us to work in situ was an amazing way for us to put our lab skills to work. It was a great reminder of why we do the work we do, seeing patrons of the Museum enjoying the collection brought the importance of our work into sharp focus.
I and a partner were assigned to do some light cleaning on two birch bark canoes. Using soft brushes, vacuums and micro fibre clothes we dusted all of the small cracks and crevices so the natural materials could shine. Being able to work so closely with these artefacts, I was amazed by the amount of skilled craftsmanship that went into their construction. From the curve of the ribs to the exact fit of the thwart, these canoes were made to last. Having spent many summers myself paddling in Algonquin Park, these canoes instantly brought to mind the sound of lapping waves and the loon’s call. As the canoe is such an important part of my life, and an iconic Canadian symbol, I was proud to do my part in helping to preserve these artefacts for generations to come.