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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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It was very early on the morning of September 26th 2013, when 26 intrepid explorers, (volunteers and staff), boarded a bus that was to take us on the road to our roots, to visit Camp Kandalore, where Kirk Wipper obtained and displayed his first canoe, the embryo of what eventually was birthed as The Canadian Canoe Museum. Read the rest of this entry »

Many followers of this blog might be familiar with the elegant paintings of voyageurs traveling in bark canoes by British-born artist Frances Anne Hopkins. Of the few artists who have left us an eyewitness graphic account of life in the canoe brigades of the Canadian fur trade, Hopkins’ art has always stood out for its elegant composition and its precision with detail. A bonus element is the “where’s Waldo” feature that the artist, a young woman in her late-twenties accompanied by her husband, is often portrayed sitting amidst the burly paddling crew on top of kit and cargo amidships.

Shooting The Rapids

Shooting The Rapids

Married to Edward Hopkins, 20-year-old Frances accompanied her husband to Canada, settling first in Lachine near Montreal. Edward initially served as secretary to Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Frances accompanied her husband on many of his travels. The journeys that would serve as strongest muse for the young artist however would be several tours of inspection by voyageur canoe on the Upper Great Lakes and the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers between 1864 and 1869. Read the rest of this entry »

The Canadian Canoe Museum is a great place to work! We are a vibrant organization with excellent people and programs.  We’ve created a successful canoe camp for kids and we have awesome land-based programs for adults.  And now the time has come to mix it up and get us adults onto the water.  This is where you come in.  We need your input!  I’d like you to help us structure our programs to your needs and wants.  I want you to take a moment to complete the survey below. Read the rest of this entry »

“Geez. #AskACurator has my head spinning today. Anyone who thinks that museums are static and analog should check out that hashtag!”

This excellent Tweet came from Jane Hanna out of Chicago (@JaneHannaSays) after witnessing some of the over 26,000+ Tweets that went out with the hashtag #AskACurator last Wednesday, and I think it’s a great way to sum up the day.

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On September 18, 2013, The Canadian Canoe Museum participated in #AskaCurator Day on Twitter alongside 622 museums in 37 countries. We invited our Curator, Jeremy Ward to answer some questions from the Twitterverse. Read the rest of this entry »

Clinching in the Old Town's new ribsIt is a real pleasure to lead a behind-the-scenes tour amongst our impressive collection of canoes, kayaks and other bits and pieces. Sometimes, as we are wrapping things up and turn to look back across a warehouse of over 500 boats from around the world, I’ve been asked the unexpected question, “how long will it take to restore them all?Collections storage

Now I’m not intending to know how often this question might be put to other museums at a similar moment but I suspect it is rather less common. The inference here might that many of our old boats look a little rough. Indeed, most do lack the shiny, over-glossed appeal of a restored classic boat and perhaps there is something about an old wooden canoe with alligatored varnish, missing some of its paint, canvas or planking that screams for our attention. Maybe it just looks like another chore needed doing at the cottage, but ramped up several hundred times. Read the rest of this entry »

Bingham

Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, 1845
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I had originally planned to write a blog on “Cats in Canoes” which is how I came across this picture of George Bingham’s painting.  I thought it would be the perfect starting point – a cat in a canoe as early as 1845. However after researching the painting I discovered that the animal in the boat is widely accepted as a bear cub and not a cat!  I came across several blogs that questioned its identity Read the rest of this entry »

Last week myself, my co-guide Jeff, and 10 totally awesome and enthusiastic youth headed out for 3 days of paddling and camping in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. This is the second year that the Canoe Museum has offered a session of Tripping Camp amongst 5 weeks of Summer Paddling Camps and, if it’s truly time to wrap up a summer on the water, this is the best possible way to do it.

Tripping Camp began with a day of preparation and packing at the Canoe Museum. These kids were earning their ORCKA Canoe Tripping Level 1A certification, meaning they were super involved in the packing of all food, group gear and personal gear. One of the really cool things we did on this first day was make our own homemade hummus from scratch and dehydrate it so it would take up minimal space in our food barrel (let’s be serious, the more room in there for desserts the better). Click here for the simple and yummy recipe we used! We tripled the recipe for 12 hungry trippers and it was the perfect amount for lunch on the first day with pitas and veggies. We followed these guidelines from the Rapid Media (Museum Corporate Member) website for instructions on dehydrating and rehydrating hummus. The rest of the day was spent setting up and checking over our gear, loading up the wanigan and getting to know each other before we headed out on trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Members of the Gordon family have been building canoes in and around Lakefield, ON since the mid 1800s.  Thomas Gordon started the Thomas Gordon Canoe Co. in the 1850s and he began a family tradition that continues to this day.

When we had two Gordon watercraft, one canoe and one skiff, donated to our collection a couple years ago by John Gordon (great grandson of Thomas Gordon) we knew it wouldn’t be long before we would put them on exhibit.

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Thomas Gordon (foreground) working on a canoe.
Photo courtesy of Kathy Hooke.

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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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