Canadian Canoe Museum

The Canadian Canoe Museum – a ‘must visit’ for everyone – is on the move, we hope.

On November 27, 2017 returning from a visit to family in Almonte over the weekend I decided to stop in at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. This was not my first visit to the museum, nor will it be my last but it was my first visit as a tourist with a specific agenda.

I had just watched an episode of 1491 on APTN which is about the Americas before Columbus and based on the book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann (Knopf, 2005). My parents had read the book and were watching the show and that spawned a conversation about the analogy between the developments of a communications network and the idea of interconnectedness through waterways and the vessels which were built and employed on those waterways. This concept of “Network” to the continent “as a thriving, stunningly diverse place, a tumult of languages, trade, and culture, a region where tens of millions of people loved and hated and worshipped as people do everywhere.” (Charles C. Mann) is the obvious analogy to the Internet of today.

I now wanted to visit the Canoe Museum with a focus on looking at how the canoe was developed for specific purposes and created from accessible materials. The intriguing part to me is that there were no “Fluid Dynamics Engineers” to design the vessels, no computer simulators or 3D Printers to make and test proto-types and no “Google” to query. How would a modern person even begin to “Think” about the construction of a vessel capable of the things canoes can do without all our modern tools and engineering? Just think of all the governmental regulation and red tape that would prevent anybody from even attempting a “Trial and error” approach. Where do the airbags, seatbelts, auxiliary flotation, emergency alert systems, navigation systems, fire suppression ….. Oh, and don’t forget you need a boaters license to even get in one.

The experience was enjoyable and the exhibits informative. There is a combination of technologies to assist in delivering the full experience and that includes WiFi connectivity with a unique partnering with some location based services adapted to media – a topic for another conversation – that can enhance post-visit experience as well.

Central to the museum’s story though, is the proposed move to a new and totally defining location on the Trent Waterway in downtown Peterborough. The design has been formalized and fundraising is underway with a proposed ground-breaking of late 2018 or early 2019. I was informed by the staff at the museum that Peterborough City Council was working on the 2018-2019 budget and would be in session that evening. I decided to follow the proceedings.

In short; City councillors have voted to give the Canadian Canoe Museum $2 million toward construction of a new facility - not $4 million, as requested. The plan is to offer the money over four years: the museum can expect $500,000 annually from 2019 until 2022 inclusively.

Those who voted against the plan - Mayor Daryl Bennett, Coun. Dan McWilliams, Coun. Henry Clarke and Coun. Lesley Parnell - all argued that the museum should get the full $4 million.

Yet Mayor Daryl Bennett said the city can manage to give $4 million over four years - and it should do so. "We are shortchanging ourselves by not wholeheartedly endorsing this program," he said.

City staff had recommended in a report that council give the museum $4 million toward the planned new $65-million museum beside the Peterborough Lift Lock.

It will be at least a year before construction starts; the new museum isn't expected to open until 2021.

The design, from Irish architectural firm Heneghan Peng, calls for a one-storey building with a massive rooftop garden and an interior conference room large enough to seat 400 people. Government funding hasn't all been announced for the project yet. The museum has already received $1.4 million from the feds - money meant to help cover design costs, such as architects' fees.

There could be more federal money coming from Ottawa, perhaps as much as $15 million. Meanwhile the province has already pledged $9 million. So there is still a shortfall of $38 million if all existing sources come through.

Peterborough and the Kawartha’s were uniquely situated in the past as central hubs of commerce and development for the indigenous communities and then the influx of Europeans.

Peterborough is again uniquely situated to become a new growth centre in Ontario. The 407 Highway extension means a commute to the GTA of under 1 hour, it means goods can bypass the GTA to get to other centres utilizing the 407 and the highway corridor creates another area for delivery and connectivity of services such as transit, electricity, natural gas, oil etc. – just like the waterways of the early development of our nation.

I think that the Canadian Canoe Museum deserves our support as a bastion and monument to the development of our nation and national heritage. A must visit opportunity and what better place to have it than positioned on the waterways most critical and central to our development.

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Peter Fortune