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There are lots of things that make Peterborough an ideal place to run a canoe museum, including lots of water, plenty of canoes and a rich history of canoe manufacturing. It also has another important resource for us in the form of Fleming College, home of the Museum Management and Curatorship and Collections Conservation and Management programs. Faculty and students from these programs have been involved with the Museum since it opened in 1997 and they have contributed substantially to the Museum’s success.

Two years ago, students worked with Curator, Jeremy Ward and Artisan Program Coordinator, Beth Stanley to create the exhibit Walter Walker: A Life in Canoes. One of the outcomes of that project was a discussion about how the Museum could get more involved in helping the next generation of museum workers learn their trade. This led to a pilot workshop in 2011 in which General Manager, John Summers taught computer lab classes at Fleming College in which students used Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to each create a sample exhibit panel which was then printed and mounted in the Museum’s Dembroski Exhibit Studio. For 2012 this institutional partnership was formalized by creating a new Fleming course called ARTS1829, Exhibit Panel Design.

students in fleming lab for blog

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When we began this blog for the museum, there was some concern about how we would keep it going. Some of the staff and volunteers asked “What should I write about?” and voiced a concern that they didn’t really have anything to say. “Relax,” I said, using my manager voice. “Just write about what you do at the museum.” When you look at the past 75 or so posts, I think that’s worked pretty well. No problem if you work with artifacts, or kids, or go on exotic jaunts to the UK to paddle for the Queen. But what about those “who only stand and wait,” as the poet said, or in this case, merely manage? Well, I’m going to take my own advice and write about what I do at the museum, so here’s a blog about the budget!

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There’s a little village a couple of hours east of Peterborough that has a special affection for the Canadian Canoe Museum.  In fact, even though some of the residents of this village have not yet made the journey to visit the Museum, many of them have a wee sense of ‘ownership’ nonetheless.  That is because the residents of Seeley’s Bay proudly helped with the ‘sea trials’ of Canada One this year, before she went off to do us all proud on the Thames.

Well, more importantly, it is also because the Executive Director of the Museum (we call him Jim) lives here.  So when Raffan called upon his fellow local citizens to help fix up the canoe, test drive her, and christen her, we were all ‘ready aye ready’.  Heck, when we heard that CBC’s The National was sending a film crew to capture the test run, we even called out the local volunteer fire brigade, to make sure Raffan and crew could handle the fireboat sprays anticipated on the Thames.

Anyhow, all of you know about the wonderful journey of Canada One – the airlift from Trenton, the frustrated lorry driver, the lack of opportunity for the crew to practice, the pouring rain, but most of all, the immense pride of Canadians who watched that wonderful canoe in the Flotilla paddled by eight beautifully costumed voyageurs. But what you may not know is that the story did not end there for the people of Seeley’s Bay.

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Some days, it’s too windy to go out on the water. Some days, the water is just plain frozen. Some days, it’s too hot and some days, you just plain don’t feel like it. When this happens, it can be almost as much fun to read about paddling as it is to do it. Here are three things to read that I think you will enjoy.

The history of the canoe building companies that were a significant part of the economic life of Peterborough, Ontario, for more than one hundred years is as rich and tangled a story as you’re likely to find in Canadian business history. Invention, entrepreurship, patents, lawsuits, rivalries, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and catastrophic fires: it’s a tale that has all this and more. It is also a complicated story, and those who are interested in canoeing history, Canadian history, Canadian business history and the story of how the city of Peterborough, Ontario came to be synonymous around the world with the canoe will have a much easier time figuring it out after they have read Peterborough author Ken Brown’s 2011 book: The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories.

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Four years ago, the Museum was thinking about how it could create an event that was relevant to our mission and collections and would also offer people a chance to support us in a relatively painless and enjoyable way (with fun being the sugar-coating on the fundraising pill). We knew what we didn’t want–we didn’t want another one of those events that you go to because you have to, and as soon as you know you’ve been seen, and before you’ve even finished your rubber chicken and long before the frozen cheescake with glutinous cherries on top arrives, you’re heading out the door to do something really important, like watching re-runs of Friends.

So if we weren’t going to do that, what were we going to do? One way to throw a party that’s relevant to a historical organization is to find a historical party, and that’s just what we went searching for. We didn’t have to look to far, because one of the biggest social events in 18th century Canada was right in front of us, almost. Enter the Beaver Club Gala, and the famous slightly off-the-wall CCM esprit de corps, and also a wild boar’s head with an apple in its mouth.

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[link to YouTube video]

From a field near Merrickville to a parking lot in Peterborough, on long-term loan from Paddle Canada, a handsome pair of canot du nord just arrived at The Canadian Canoe Museum, via Seeley’s Bay, Ontario and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London, England!

Here’s what they looked like in mid-May.

It has been quite a transition!  (Even the trailer got a scrub down with wire brushes and a lick of new paint.)

They were welcomed to the museum with a thorough smudging and a toast from the Board of Directors (who had their June meeting in Five Bay) to make sure that all will be right as they move into service at the museum.

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My name is Cookie, and I’m a Golden Retriever who really likes canoeing. Here are the top 10 reasons I enjoy it so much.

#1: There’s water everywhere. Water to drink, water to swim in, water to smell, water to bring into the car with you on your fur!

#2: I get a biscuit when I put my lifejacket on!

#3: I get a biscuit when I take my lifejacket off!

#4: Sometimes, there are squirrels where we put the canoe in the water!

#5: Sometimes, there are ducks in the water, and I dream of being fast enough to catch up with one, though to be honest I am not sure what to do with it when I catch it, so I should think about that some more.

#6: Once, I found a dead fish on the beach and I brought it into the car with me on my fur. The car smelled good for several weeks afterwards!

#7: Sometimes, there are squirrels!

#8: I have never met any cats that like to go canoeing!

#9: Sometimes, there are squirrels!

#10: You can meet new friends on the water, like my buddy Booker:

If your owner takes you out on the water in a canoe, why not post a photo or two of one of your trips on our Facebook page, or Tweet with the hashtag #dogsincanoes. You can put the photos up on the museum’s Pinterest page too, where there are already some dogs in canoes.

See you on the water!

After many air and river miles, Canada One/Un, the canoe that paddled for a Queen, has returned home. On her way to the Canadian Canoe Museum, where she will join the programming fleet in a new partnership between the museum and Paddle Canada, Canada One/Un made a stop in Seeley’s Bay, Ontario.

As well as being the home base of the CCM’s peripatetic Executive Director James Raffan, Seeley’s Bay is home to a number of good-spirited citizens who pitched in to help ready the canoe for her royal engagement. It seemed only fitting, therefore, that she and James would return the favour by helping them celebrate Canada Day which they did in fine style, if these pictures are anything to go by.

Welcome back and well done!

Lapstrake decked double-paddle canoe, built c. 1915 by J. Henry Rushton Inc. in Canton, N.Y. Length: 3.5m (11’ 6”); Beam 66cm (26”); Weight: 27.2 kg (60 lbs). Decks and planking white cedar; ribs red elm; stems and coaming white oak. (Gift of Paul Thomas)

Using simple tools like levels, rulers and a plumb bob, along with some basic geometry, it is possible to measure an existing canoe by “taking its lines.” Over the next few months, Museum staff and volunteers will be measuring and drawing this historic lapstrake canoe in the Preserving Skills gallery.

At the beginning of our project, we were fortunate to have the assistance of Dr. Kimberly Monk, a maritime archaeologist from the University of Bristol, who was on her way to the Caribbean to document sailing fishing craft. Here, she is recording details of the measuring set-up prior to beginning work.

The Rushton canoe set up for lines-taking. To the left is the drawing board on which the canoe’s lines will be re-created at full size.

Sometimes, the original plans from which the canoe was built have not survived, and all we have is the canoe itself. It is also possible that the canoe wasn’t originally built from plans. In either case, measuring and drawing, historic canoes, through a process known as “watercraft documentation,” is an important part of a museum’s stewardship of its artifact collection. By drawing plans, taking photographs and making notes and sketches of particular details, the museum can assemble the information necessary to build a copy of the canoe for use in on-water programming.

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