CBC News, Radio & The National

August 4, 2023

World's largest museum collection of canoes on the move

It’s a portage unlike any other.

Hundreds of canoes belonging to the Canadian Canoe Museum — some as long as a transport trailer — are being moved from their previous location in a former outboard motor factory in Peterborough, Ont., to a new waterfront home three kilometres away.

The museum holds the world’s largest collection of paddled watercraft, from birchbark canoes handmade by Indigenous craftspeople to a sleek kayak used in the Olympic Games.

The museum’s building for the past 26 years is so cramped that only a portion of the collection could be displayed to the public. That left some 500 canoes languishing in an adjacent warehouse, covered with sheets to protect them from birds that would occasionally fly in through broken windows….

We were thrilled to take CBC News behind the scenes to share why this collection of national significance needs a new home and the exciting moment Kokomis Tchiman, a birchbark canoe built by Métis elder Marcel Labelle, is lifted into the new museum along the water’s edge, where it will be on display in the Exhibition Hall.

Curator Jeremy Ward smiles while being interviewed by CBC’s Mike Crawley and video producer Laura Pedersen in the new museum’s Exhibition Hall.

Executive director Carolyn Hyslop speaks with CBC senior reporter Mike Crawley in the current museum’s Collection Centre, amidst hundreds of canoes waiting to be moved to their new home. 

Curator Jeremy Ward shares the story of Kokomis Tchiman as the team prepares to lift the 26-foot-long birchbark canoe by crane into the second floor of the new museum. 

Blue and red text reads Inspiring Canada by canoe.

The Canadian Canoe Museum has raised 97% of the $40M cost for our new museum project – but we aren’t done fundraising just yet! We invite Canadians to join us on the final portage to our $40M goal by donating today. Every donation brings us one step closer to the water’s edge at our future home.