The Canadian Canoe Museum – Creating a better, more integrated visitor experience 

There is excitement in Peterborough as the final planning stages of the Canadian Canoe Museum’s relocation are about to give way to shovels in the ground.

The new site, situated on Little Lake north of Beavermead Park, will see the museum being built on a flat portion of the property along Ashburnham Drive.

The new museum will enable CCM to house 100 per cent of the museum’s canoe collection in a building that meets Class A conservation standards, directly on the water, which allows for increased on-water and in-person programming. Using its existing pieces, all exhibits will be brand new, using new configurations and new technologies to enhance the interactive experience. 

CCM’s Rachelia Giardino talks about the current educational programming and workshops which are at the core of the museum’s outreach. Students from across the province participate in interactive programming like building the structure of a kayak, dressing up and singing traditional songs, and making bannock in the kitchen, to name a few. Staying overnight at the museum, sleeping among the exhibits – even under the shadow of the huge voyageur canoe – is a popular option.

People come from across Canada and the United States to engage in immersive workshops and learn from skilled craftspeople. The workshops include paddle-making, crafting a leather-bound journal, various textile projects, learning how to restore a canoe, and planning a back-country camping menu.

“The energy in these workshops is amazing,” Giardino explains.
“People get to work with their hands to create a connection with history.”

Giardino goes on to say “With this new space, we will take programming we have worked years to refine and bring it to the next level.” She added that people can continue that connection with the land by camping next door at Beavermead campground.

Museum curator Jeremy Ward sums it up by saying “The new museum will offer a full palette of exciting new experiences and discoveries for visitors that we have only dreamed of! Our exhibition hall will host a brand-new suite of permanent and temporary exhibits. Visitors will also be able to sign up for a curated back-of-house tour that takes them inside a soaring hall that houses more than 500 canoes and kayaks from across Canada and the globe. Last but not least, meeting with canoe-makers-in-residence, or carving your own canoe paddle in our artisan studio will be the perfect launching point to setting up visitors for a paddle on the lake in one of our many canoes.”

Honouring and Respecting Indigenous Peoples

The Canadian Canoe Museum see  s the new building as an opportunity to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action. As part of this process, the museum is “walking back” or tracing the canoes and kayaks in the collection to their home communities, and working with Indigenous Elders, knowledge-holders, and community liaisons to learn more about the history and stories these vessels carry. 

In collaboration with Indigenous communities across the country, CCM is working to ensure the history, cultures, languages and perspectives are present in the new exhibits, and that they are honoured and celebrated.

“At this time in Canada, we are beginning a process for Truth and Reconciliation. Together, we need to learn, understand and acknowledge our shared history. We can’t do that without first knowing and understanding the impact of the canoe in Canada’s story, from those very early times when the first visitors came to our shores. The Canadian Canoe Museum provides us with an opportunity to learn, to feel, to smell, and to see the canoe in its diversity and endurance.”

VICTORIA GRANT, TEME-AUGAMA ANISHNABAI QWAY

Chair, Canadian Canoe Museum Board; CCM National Council Member; Past Chair, Community Foundations of Canada

Go to www.canoemuseum.ca/new.museum for information on the new museum – which is expected to open in the summer of 2023 – and details regarding fundraising and how you can support this project.