Spring and summer have brought colour back to our world, with longer days full of sunshine and, of course, paddling season. After a winter of COVID-19 news, restrictions, and countless Zoom meetings, returning to the water by canoe for the first paddle of the season instilled in me a new sense of hope and optimism.
As I paddled, I could not help but reflect on the past year and the challenges the Museum has and continues to face. The ever-evolving pandemic, the discovery of contamination at the former location of our new museum, the pivot to a new site and design at Johnson property, and the complexity of navigating these simultaneously have been difficult. It is also hard to believe that the Museum has not yet welcomed any in-person visitors this year.
Looking back is difficult and, at times, emotional. However, what strikes me is how we’ve dealt with these challenges: by responding quickly, being both patient and flexible, maintaining connections and deepening relationships, and practicing resiliency as an organization.
I do not think it is a coincidence that many of these are lessons instilled in us by the canoe through countless paddles and trips. The canoe, in all its wisdom, has helped to guide us through these challenges.
Our nimble team responded quickly to the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions and, at the same time, to the developments with our new museum project, working to maintain an even keel as much as possible. From closing the Museum for the safety of our community to developing a plan B for our new museum, we know from our years of tripping that while going with the flow is preferred, you should always be prepared to adapt!
With closed doors, the Museum had to quickly determine how to connect and engage with audiences in an age of physical distancing. How to continue to foster those connections to the land, water, canoe, and each other? Fortunately, from years of running our award-winning virtual programs, we had experience facilitating connections by canoe over a WiFi connection.
The advantage of strengthening our digital presence has been that more people, both internationally and locally, have greater access to our collection through programs, virtual tours, behind-the-scenes content, and more. For example, our virtual tours have helped reduce isolation during lockdown for more than 175 local seniors in long-term care, retirement residences, or independent living.
And lastly – resiliency. As a former outdoor educator, I have experienced firsthand how interacting with nature builds resiliency. Not everything goes the way you predict. What is important is how you respond, recover, and that you try again. When paddling, with each paddle stroke we grow stronger, slowly but surely, from the resistance of the water; so too does the Museum as we navigate these challenges.
We are currently preparing for a strong recovery and are well-positioned to make the most out of the remainder of 2021 when we can reopen safely. But we cannot do it without your help and support.
Our recovery will need to be two-fold: as we reopen and begin to welcome back visitors, we will also need to continue to focus on our digital engagement for those not able or comfortable with travelling just yet. With your help, we will be able to continue inspiring connection, curiosity and new understanding both in-person and online!
Give a gift of hope, and help us build a stronger, more resilient future at canoemuseum.ca/give
Thank you for your support and happy paddling!