A smile extends across Bernice Standen’s face and her eyes light up when she speaks about the museum, and the canoes, kayaks and stories within our collection. She has a deep, profound love for The Canadian Canoe Museum, often referring to it as her spiritual home. This wouldn’t come as a shock to the visitors that she greets, as she welcomes them as if they were old friends entering her own home.
An avid paddler, Bernice joined the museum as a volunteer twenty years ago. She became involved with the museum through her husband, Dale, a history professor at Trent involved with establishing the new (at that time) Canadian Canoe Museum.
Speaking with Bernice during one of her weekly shifts in the gift store, she began to reminisce on twenty years of memories. She recalled the resiliency of the museum and volunteers when the museum temporarily closed for eight months in 2003 to restructure its finances and operations. Determined to see the museum through this time, Bernice shared how volunteers staffed the gift shop each day, and that once the word got out, the Peterborough community showed up in droves to shop and lend their support to the museum! Laughing, Bernice shared how volunteers got to be experts at strategically refreshing and staging them as stock began to dwindle.
That support, affirmation and pride is what continues to draw Bernice to the museum. For 15 years, she was also the keeper of the visitor guestbook, a role she describes as a labour of love. Ever curious, Bernice loved to see where people were visiting from and the impression that the museum left in visitors’ minds and hearts. Her favourites? A family from India came through the museum, and after greatly enjoying their experience, wrote, “What you have done here, reaffirms our desire to emigrate to Canada”. Another stated simply, but powerfully, “This place fairly breathes”. Reading and transcribing visitor comments made her realize her feelings about the museum are shared amongst visitors and friends – or as we like to say, connected by canoe!
Today, Bernice continues to warmly welcome visitors to the museum and help shoppers in our gift store, Tumblehome. Her laugh and love for the museum is infectious to all of those around her. And while she still enjoys a good paddle, she has since swapped white waters for gentler rivers.
- Bernice volunteers with our frontline services, helping to welcome visitors, process admissions and gift store purchases, and providing a brief orientation to the museum.
- Previously, Bernice was the keeper of our guestbook, taking time to transcribe the feedback and messages from visitors into a yearly retrospective!
This is one post in a series written by our Volunteer Manager, Rachelia Giardino, where we highlight the impact of our volunteers and introduce you to various members of our volunteer team and the work they do!