I have been a volunteer at the Canadian Canoe Museum since my retirement in 1999. As the museum moves forward in its capital campaign to relocate and ensure a safe place to care for the collection I would like to share some thoughts.
My duties involve meeting our visitors at Admissions as well as serving them in the store. In addition, since 2004, I have been doing the annual retrospective look at our Guest Book, noting where folks come from, why they visit the CCM and what they think about the museum. It is a heart-warming experience, and although time consuming, it reveals many important and interesting things. Full disclosure – I personally find this collection of paddled water craft so representative of our rich history in Canada that it takes on spiritual connotations for me. The importance of the aboriginal presence and their knowledge of nature’s materials to construct some of these canoes and their continued attention to the care of the spirits of the craft in the museum today is profoundly moving.
Approximately two thirds of our visitors who have signed our Guest Book are Canadian – we see people from all provinces and territories. Some have even paddled here –one visitor wrote “Paddled here from P.E.I to visit (the) museum and see Bill Mason’s canoes. Today (mid Aug) is Day 95. Happy to be here.” Most folks come by car!! Here are a few of my favourite quotes from Canadians over the years:
“Exceptional! What a gift to Canada’s history. What a gift to Peterborough.”
“A national treasure! A worthy tribute to such a noble craft!”
“Quite possibly the best museum in the country. A Gem!”
“Fabulous! I came as a teacher and became the student.”
“Canoes made us Canadian! Thank you for preserving our heritage.”
“I love this museum! It has a magnificent spirit!”
The other one third of our Guest Book signers are from abroad. What is interesting to note however, is the distance people do come to visit Peterborough to see this museum. We have recently placed a map of the world in the foyer of the CCM where there are red dots affixed to geographic home bases of our visitors and these red dots circumnavigate the world – north, south, east, west! For example a few years ago we welcomed guests from four different continents – Australia, Asia, Europe and North America in the course of one hour! It was heartwarming to hear different languages being spoken throughout the galleries as our guests moved through the museum.
These folks from all over the world are appreciative and touched by the collection and are drawn for different reasons. Their visits introduce them to the many offerings of a small city in eastern Canada. They contribute to the local economy in many ways – accommodation, food, historical site visits and shopping! Some comments from our international visitors over the years are encouraging:
CHINA: “Learned a lot of knowledge. Wonderful place!”
EGYPT:“I learned new things about the world and of course Canada.”
GERMANY:“Third time in this museum! So it must be great! Looking forward to my next visit!”
SOUTH AFRICA:“We were last here 12 years ago and it is wonderful to be back here again!!”
TASMANIA:“Brings me home.”
USA:“Fantastic presentations well interpreted and engages all (even very old and very young). RIVALS the Smithsonian!!”
UNITED KINGDOM:“Brought 16 students here after their 8 day expedition in Algonquin. A lovely informative way of ending our trip. Thank you.”
SAUDI ARABIA:“A real hidden GEM! I loved it.”
We are fortunate indeed to have what is considered the preeminent collection of paddled craft in the world, housed in an historical context. It is our responsibility to maintain this collection safely. The current buildings are aged and leaking – it is time to move forward, it is our responsibility to move forward. In addition to generous private donors locally and across the country, the Federal and Provincial governments are on side and our city and county governments, who will benefit through this endeavour, have been approached for support.
If you have not had an opportunity to see this remarkable collection please do come so that you can see the first iteration in our current home on Monaghan Road and look forward, with us, to the new Canadian Canoe Museum at the LiftLock.