It goes without saying that it has been an extraordinary year so far for all and, as you’d expect, here also at The Canadian Canoe Museum. When the world came to a halt, and we closed our doors in March, our daily operations were completely transformed overnight. We went from offering experiences and exploration in the galleries; community members connecting through artisanry; people of all ages getting on the water and learning to paddle; and welcoming members and guests into the museum for exhibitions and events that spark conversation and collaboration, to shuttering it all for the safety and wellbeing of our community.
The museum was closed for months. During that time work continued behind the scenes to ensure the museum, the collection, its stories, and the new museum project were sustained while also sharing them through new means. And now I write to you today to share that we safely reopened the museum in July, relaunched our virtual programs, and are continuing to work on the new museum while doing so with a renewed emphasis on ensuring that the museum weathers the impacts of the pandemic with strong financial and organizational sustainability.
The vision for a vibrant waterfront cultural and community hub that allows visitors to walk in the front door and paddle out the back continues to be a major focus of the museum despite a major challenge that has caused us a delay. As you might recall from earlier this spring, we encountered groundwater contamination from an adjacent property at the future construction site of the museum at Parks Canada’s Lift Lock site. In early summer we learned that we can expect a significant multi-year delay in schedule and significant cost escalation.
As such, we have terminated our lease with Parks Canada and we are exploring alternative waterfront sites in Peterborough as a way to keep the core vision of the project, the schedule and the overall project budget in line with what we had originally envisioned. We have heard from donors, partners, government supporters, volunteers and members and are heartened by the commitment to the vision of this project and the willingness to support us while we determine the best path forward for the new museum.
When we re-opened the museum in July our focus shifted to the development of meaningful digital outreach and engagement. For years we have been delivering live virtual field trips to classrooms around the world through Skype. Going forward we are developing and delivering virtual offerings to meet demands of socially isolated seniors in care homes, school groups not able to travel, and out of province/country visitors not able to travel our way.
Digital storytelling emanating from our remarkable collection and from virtual tours will be a major focus of our work this year, not to mention developing other digital resources for teachers and parents.
As with many not-for-profit charitable organizations in the cultural sector, we too have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. In response to the financial impacts that COVID-19 has had on the museum, we have limited our offerings, reshuffled the organization, and changed our staffing structure to ensure long-term financial sustainability through this crisis.
Despite the significant moves we’ve made to weather this storm, we are still in need of support to continue the vital work that lies ahead as we ramp up our digital engagement and storytelling, develop new content and business models to support those efforts, and work our way back to an exciting new project to share with you and the rest of the country.
These are truly unprecedented times for all, and in this light, I am personally hoping that you might consider supporting the museum by making a gift to our sustainability fund and in doing so, help with the critical work that lies ahead.