As the Canadian Canoe Museum reopens in Peterborough, it’s revitalized both in location and philosophy. With a move from a former outboard motor factory deep in the city to a beautiful new facility on the shores of Little Lake, the museum is now directly connected to the city’s waterways.

This new home is important to the Canadian Canoe Museum in so many ways. Much of the museum’s own collection of paddled watercraft traces back to this area. This can be via traditional Anishinaabe canoe routes or the canoe factories for which Peterborough was a hub. From its new location on Peterborough’s waterfront, the Canadian Canoe Museum can now offer water-based programming on the Trent-Severn Waterway that was once a logistical challenge. And the institution joins many more of Peterborough’s arts and cultural centres on the shores of Little Lake, which now connects the city more than ever.

New facility houses the entire Canadian Canoe Museum collection

May 13, 2024, marks the public grand opening of the Canadian Canoe Museum’s new location at 2077 Ashburnham Drive in Peterborough. As this new facility opens its doors, the museum now houses its entire collection of 550 boats from Canada and around the world under one roof.

The main exhibition hall on the second floor is a stunning centrepiece. As you enter, you stand beneath a swirl of canoes and atop a map of Canada without borders or landmarks. Instead, it offers an unencumbered look at this country’s intricate waterways, a thoughtful demonstration of how water connects us.

The main exhibition hall features six long term exhibits. These highlight themes such as community, traditional trade routes, and pushing human limitations. There are audio and interactive components, and the quiet bird calls playing in the background give the space a calming and natural feel.

Some watercraft from this impressive collection are certain to stand out to visitors. For example, you can view a canoe once owned and paddled by Canadian folk singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot.

In the collections hall on the main level, Curator Jeremy Ward pointed out a canoe with a scalloped pattern that was a wedding gift to Pierre and Margaret Trudeau, and a turquoise canoe once owned by Canadian author and environmentalist Farley Mowat. Guests can join guided tours to learn in greater detail.

Waterfront location affords new opportunities

Thanks to the Canadian Canoe Museum’s new waterfront location, staff are able to offer new immersive programming that launches from the new docks directly behind the facility. This new launch point includes wheelchair accessibility for accessible transfer into canoes.

One highlight is the Voyageur Canoe Tour. Groups as small as four or as large as 30 people can paddle a Voyageur-style canoe on Little Lake. For 90 minutes, you’ll learn about the history of the Voyageurs and paddling in the Peterborough area. If conditions are right, you may even be able to approach or paddle through a lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway.

The museum will also offer canoe and kayaks rentals available by the hour. With time and planning, this would allow you to explore more of the Trent-Severn Waterway. You may even be able to paddle as far as the historic Peterborough Lift Lock and experience it for yourself!

If you prefer to stay landlocked, you can explore beyond the museum via the Trans-Canada Trail. This pathway passes through the property and connects on to more of Peterborough’s waterside parks.

The Canadian Canoe Museum now has an Anishinaabe name

As the Canadian Canoe Museum transitions to its new space, it also incorporates some new philosophies. The centre now has an Anishinaabe name—Jiimaan Kinomaagewin—that’s listed ahead of English and French on the building’s exterior. Some of the information panels in the exhibition hall are printed in Anishinaabemowin in addition to English and French, making the facility partially trilingual. In consultation with Indigenous communities in nearby Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation, changes are being incorporated such as traditional smudging ceremonies and adding cedar boughs at entryways to protect and purify these new spaces.

In addition, a portion of the land surrounding the museum is being rehabilitated, including a constructed wetland. Carolyn Hyslop, executive director of the Canadian Canoe Museum, says this is already supporting the return of birds and wildlife to the shores of Little Lake. This is in keeping with the museum’s sense of responsibility for stewardship of the surrounding waterways.

Canadian Canoe Museum now offers event facilities

More new features are incorporated into the updated Canadian Canoe Museum. A second-floor event space has a terrace with views overlooking Little Lake. There’s also an outpost location of the Silver Bean Café. Locals love this long-time Peterborough institution for its delicious sandwiches. A gift shop with unique items is located just inside the main doors, and much of the reception area is a cozy seating area complete with wood-burning fireplace.

Learn more about the revitalized Canadian Canoe Museum at canoemuseum.ca.

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