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When I walked through the door of the Canadian Canoe Museum in August of 2008, I had no idea what I was getting into. OK, maybe that’s not 100% true. I knew that the CCM had an amazing collection of canoes and kayaks and I knew about the Museum’s history at Kandalore and at Monaghan Road. I had even seen the canoes in the log building at Camp Kandalore back in the mid 1980s. Those were the facts of the story. I knew a little about what the Canoe Museum was, but I didn’t have any idea who the museum was. Now I do.

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Each year, the Ontario Museum Association puts on a conference where those of us in the business, and those who would like to be in the business, gather to talk about the professional issues of the day. The theme for 2013 is “Culture: Taking Charge.” I’ve been asked to be a panelist in a session called “Paradigm Shifts: The Challenge of Doing Things Differently.” The panelists have been asked to think about a major change, issue or crisis that has confronted their institution and reflect on how they dealt with it.

Two challenges came immediately to mind for the Canadian Canoe Museum, and the more I thought about them the more they seemed to be related.

Challenge #1: Our collection of more than 600 canoes, kayaks and watercraft is national in scope and includes watercraft from every province and territory. Our ambitions are also national in scope, and we want to be engaged with Canadians and visitors across the country. One typical way to do this is through membership. But, one of the benefits of membership in a museum is often free admission. How does that work if you live 1500km away from the institution? Is there a way to deliver enough value to members to make it worthwhile to join even if they never visit in person?

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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.

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When was the last time you dressed up like a character from the grand old days of the fur trade? Was it maybe October 2012 when you came to last year’s Beaver Club Gala?

If you’ve been troubled ever since then by a persistent urge to tie on a sash or wear a top hat, then help is at hand because Beaver Club Gala tickets are now on sale. If you’ve never dressed up like a voyageur, then what are you waiting for? Read the rest of this entry »

Each summer for the past 34 years, members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association have gathered for their annual assembly. For many of those years, the Assembly has been held on the beautiful lakefront campus of Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack area of upstate New York.

Earlier this year, the WCHA and the Canoe Museum decided to work together to support canoeing heritage by offering the members of each organization a year of free membership in the other. To promote this new initiative and get to know the WCHA better, I spent three days at this year’s assembly, which was once again held at Paul Smith’s College.

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If you’ve raised children, looked after children or read to children, chances are you’ve encountered Richard Scarry’s immortal Busytown stories and met Huckle the Cat, his sister Sally, Mr. Frumble and of course, Lowly Worm. One of the stories begins something like this (it’s been a few years since I read this, so forgive me if the quotation is a little bit off!):

It’s early morning in Busytown. My, what a busy place!

That line went through my head all last week, as we were a very busy place indeed. The week began with Arts & Culture Week, part of Peterborough’s Seniors Month event, organized by indefatigable community organizer (and former Canoe Museum Board Member) Pat Hooper.

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Monday it was photography and artisans and a wigwam drop-in. Tuesday brought the New Horizons band, square dancers and singers. Wednesday was painting, Thursday was theatre, artisans and a wigwam drop-in and Friday offered more music and journal and memoir writing. So far, so good and pretty busy. As the psalm says, there was definitely some “joyful noise,” especially when the kids from Spring Valley PS got together with members of the Fairhaven Choir.

IMG_5602 2013 June 14 Spring Valley and Fairhaven choir

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promo image for feasibility town hallYou’re invited to a Town Hall Meeting at the Museum on Wednesday May 8th in the Education Room at The Canadian Canoe Museum, 910 Monaghan Road, Peterborough, from 7:00 to 9:00pm.

As you may have heard, The Canadian Canoe Museum is exploring the feasibility of moving to a new on-the-water location in downtown Peterborough. We care deeply about our audience, our community and our supporters and we want to hear your thoughts about our future.

Join us on Wednesday May 8th from 7:00 to 9:00pm to hear an update about this exciting idea and engage in a lively discussion. We need your help to reach our goal of being a locally-loved and nationally-significant cultural heritage institution on the waterfront in downtown Peterborough. Refreshments will be served. Call 705.748.9153 or email info@canoemuseum.ca to R.S.V.P.

If you can’t join us in person, you can call (705.748.9153), write (The Canadian Canoe Museum, 910 Monaghan Road, Peterborough, ON K9J 5K4) or email (info@canoemuseum.ca) to tell us what you think. We will also be setting up an online way for you to share your thoughts–stay tuned for a separate announcement. Your participation is important to us, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Late last year, we posted a blog entry about a wonderful new partnership that the Canoe Museum has been developing with the Fleming College Museum Management and Curatorship program by providing hands-on training in exhibit design and production. That partnership is about to pay off in a big way. Each year, the students work with a community partner to design, fabricate and install a new exhibit. For 2013, the project is the Peterborough Fire Service’s west-end station at 839 Clonsilla Avenue.

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The students put all of the skills and knowledge we passed on to them last fall to use in designing all of the graphic panels for this new exhibit and a short time ago they came back to the Museum to print and mount the graphics. Having worked with them both in their classroom at Fleming College and in the Museum’s own exhibit studio, I am delighted to say that they have done professional-quality work and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. It has been a real pleasure to work with them and Gayle McIntyre and Deb Scott, their instructors.

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On July 1st, 1997, The Canadian Canoe Museum opened its doors at 910 Monaghan Road in Peterborough, Ontario in the former head office of the Outboard Marine Corporation (Canada). Since then, hundreds of thousands of visitors young and old from across Canada and around the world have enjoyed the Museum’s unique portrait of Canada and its unparalleled collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft. While there’s no question that the site has been a great incubator for the Museum and has let us get on our feet, it’s not the best place for the long term. Why not?

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Every so often, we come across a canoe here at the Museum that raises more questions than it answers. Last summer, a donor brought this interesting boat to our attention.

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Here’s what stood out for us when we first looked at it:

  • It is very lightly built, almost more like a rowing shell than a canoe, with a 1/8″ veneer hull and sawn frame/batten seam construction;
  • It once had fabric decks, and there are still scraps of varnished linen attached to some of the deckbeams;
  • The cockpit area has a very wide, flaring coaming that adds several inches to the boat’s beam; and
  • It was probably used for flatwater sprint racing.

What we didn’t know was what class or type of canoe it was.

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