The canoe, one of Canada’s most enduring symbols, will finally get the home it deserves. After a multiple-year closure, the Canadian Canoe Museum is preparing to reopen at a new location on the waterfront of Little Lake in Peterborough, Ontario, about 118 km (73 miles) from Toronto.
The canoe is often associated with the fur trade and the romantic figure of the voyageur, but often overlooked is that it is also a symbol of resilience, resurgence, and nationhood for Indigenous Peoples. It has a rich and complex history, deeply intertwined with Canada itself.
The Canadian Canoe Museum has spent more than two decades stewarding the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft. Numbering over 600, the specimens and their stories represent an important element of Canadian heritage. The museum was declared a cultural asset of national significance by the Senate of Canada in 2013. However, despite its importance, the old museum was limited by a lack of suitable space and inland location: less than 20 percent of its collection was displayed, and on-water programming was restricted.
The new two-hectare site features inspiring views of Little Lake and connects to the Trans Canada Trail, the longest network of multi-use recreational trails in the world. It’s surrounded by public parks, and will be a gathering space for community activities, including canoeing and other outdoor programs.
The Canadian Canoe Museum’s collection features massive West Coast cedar dugouts, different styles of kayak skins, and bark canoes representing First Nations cultures across Canada. There’s also a canoe that belonged to former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of the current prime minister), and royal canoes that Canada gifted to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947, and to Charles and Diana in 1981.