Now that we’ve got your attention and maybe have you wondering if we’re about to post a Canoe Museum Spring Break video, I’d like to tell you about a very interesting trip that some of us just went on. You’ve probably heard that the Museum is in the middle of a feasibility study? A group of consultants, fundraisers and architects is helping us to explore what it would mean for the Museum to move to a new home on the waterfront somewhere in Peterborough. If you’ve visited the Museum in person, you’ll know that the water is a little hard to reach from our present site. You might also know that a number of years ago we tried to bring the water to the Museum. Turns out it’s easier to bring the Museum to the water.
An important part of a study like this is learning more about what other institutions are up to. Sometimes, you get some really good ideas to take back to your own shop. Other times, you realize that what you’re doing is actually pretty good. Either way, it’s well worth the effort. We began our road trip at The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. Located on a waterfront campus on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, the ABM is known far and wide for its collection of more that 300 pleasure boats, ranging in size from 6′ long to over 100′ long.
Spending the morning at the ABM gave us a real sense of the wide range of things that can be done with a waterfront museum, from antique boat shows and visiting ships and yachts to sailing lessons and community boating and sailing nights. We also got a glimpse of the museum’s very well-organized, but rather full, collections storage facility, which made us appreciate the fact that a good part of our Museum’s collection can be picked up and carried on your shoulders. The highlight of the afternoon was a St. Lawrence River cruise on Zipper, the museum’s beautiful mahogany commuter yacht.
The next morning, we headed deep into the Adirondack Park to The Wild Center, whose mission is to:
Ignite an enduring passion for the Adirondacks where people and nature can thrive together and set an example for the world.
The Center is a museum whose artifacts are the flora, fauna, ecosystem and geography of the Adirondack Park that surrounds it. Science and experience-based, their exhibits and programs place a premium on interactivity and engagement. We arrived just in time for the morning otter enrichment, which was like nothing so much as watching the otter channel on cable TV, as several of the group discovered.
The exhibit spaces were, in a word, stunning. Beautifully designed and fabricated, they offered a wealth of opportunities to get involved for visitors of all ages. While busy, they were laid out in such a way as to offer time for reflection between experiences and avoid the sensory overload that can happen at science centres and exploratoriums. The displays introduced the creatures and ecological processes at work in the park and repeatedly made clear the interdependence of all of the parts of the ecosystem.
After lunching in the on-site cafe and delivering some local economic stimulus via the museum store, we met with a number of the staff, who introduced us to the systems that keep the animals thriving (hundreds of feet of piping, tanks, filters, chillers and other equipment) and the museum going (a large network of members, donors and supporters).
When we got together after the trip to talk about what we had seen and learned, several things stood out from this important step on the Canoe Museum’s journey to the water. Both museums made a point of saying that they had to think big. Not crazy big, not unrealistically big, but substantial enough that those whom they ask for support can get a sense of the institution’s vision. Both The Antique Boat Museum and The Wild Center offer programming inside and outside of their buildings, and both make their surroundings, whether river or forest, an integral part of the visitor experience. Both have a strong brand and aren’t afraid to talk about it, and they make sure that everything about them speaks to that brand. We can’t wait to take The Canadian Canoe Museum in the same direction, and we hope you’ll be along for the ride.
Oh, and by the way: Are you a member yet?