Downstairs, the museum has highlighted facts and tales about the more recent past and the paddling history in Peterborough, the surrounding region, and in Canada as a whole. Documents that show the sale of canoes for use in African river exploration and pictures of canoe races drip with the history of the people involved. It’s similar to the feeling of becoming invested in a movie character, except that the relationship grows in 30 seconds, not 2 hours. The last set of displays is dedicated to the museum’s originator: Kirk Wipper. Once called the Kanawa Museum, Kirk combined that collection with his own, acquired new items and grew it into the incredible landmark that is the Canadian Canoe Museum.
The best part about my visit, was meeting museum volunteer and expert wood worker Russ Parker. He saw us gazing through the window of the 1st floor wood shop and with a huge smile invited us to see his latest creations. One piece was a scaled down model of a canoe that kids could put together, as if they themselves were building a real canoe. As Russ talked about how this would become a hands-on display for future school tours, it was clear that this was a not just a passion, but a mission. Cedar strips, resin, jigs and clamps are Russ Parker’s wheelhouse. The more he spoke, the more saw dust fell from his hair and coveralls, and the more I too, wanted to become a canoe maker, or at least a museum donor to support the hard work and community outreach that the museum provides. If you’d like more information about supporting the museum, CLICK HERE. I’m looking into the “Adopt a Canoe” program myself.
As we were leaving, I noticed a large sign on the wall with a photo and caption of a Canadian icon. While he might not be well known among the younger generation, paddling baby boomers would know Walter Walker as an artisan and master canoe builder. The caption defined his love of wood working and sums up how hard one can work for something they are passionate about: “You just keep doing and doing it because you like doing it.” It is clear the employees at the museum and the community of Peterborough love canoes – and paddling – and will just keep doing it, because they like doing it.