Friday, August 18, 2017

Canoe Museum, Peterborough, Ontario

Yesterday my husband and I visited Peterborough, Ontario. My daughter attended university here and when we would visit her, we all went out for a nice lunch or dinner together at one of the many wonderful restaurants in town. We had a nice lunch at Hot Belly Mama's yesterday and then we decided to visit the Canoe Museum. This building is full of canoes and kayaks, many of which were built by First Nations people from all across Canada. The museum is well set up so that you visit the oldest canoes and kayaks first and then work your way forward through time.

But my first visit was to the ladies' room ... I loved the sign on that door ;)

There's something so beautiful about canoes ... their shape, the cedar strips, the birchbark, the construction, the amazing handiwork ... all come together to create something so aesthetically pleasing. We've visited the museum a couple of times before, and I'm always amazed at this collection. There are so many canoes!! And they are all beautifully made.

And now I will just say .... there are a lot of photos here, and if you're not interested in canoes, let me save you some time and say don't bother with reading this post.

The dugout canoes are amazing. Basically, a tree is felled and the centre dug out. Hot rocks are placed inside the dug out portion to stretch the wood widthwise, which shrinks the wood in length. 

a wolf is carved in the tip of this canoe with paintings along the sides
 This is a very old dugout canoe ... just look at the grain in that wood!

Below is the whole dugout ... enormous!

Details of how to build your own ...

Another dugout canoe ...

A replica of a Haida war canoe, built from a single cedar log ...

Next on display was a vast collection of birch bark canoes, many of which were fashioned from one single piece of birch bark. You won't find a birch tree big enough these days to get such a big piece of bark. The bark is shaped by slicing it in places and these "gores" were covered with pine pitch. I searched for birch bark canoe construction and found this interesting read on how to build your own. I like the ending instruction: "Carve a paddle. Go fishing." The details in these canoes is amazing.

you can see the "gores" along the side of this canoe

From there we went to the Arctic and saw some beautiful sealskin covered kayaks. The sealskin coverings on many of these kayaks looks very brittle, and probably beyond repair. The frames of the kayaks are beautifully made just as the birch bark canoes. A lot of the kayaks were stacked on racks and difficult to photograph. 

you can see the stacks of kayaks in the background

As I mentioned, the display went from oldest to newest canoes & kayaks. I've shown the displayed canoes in relatively chronological order. The next set are more birch bark canoes and cedar strip canoes of a later period.

do you see the moose decorating the side of this canoe?

Decorations were added to the side of the birch bark canoes by using "winter bark". The bark was moistened and the reddish portion scraped away until only the pattern was left in the reddish colour.

Below is a replica of a canoe (built in 1972) used to transport goods during the fur trade. This canoe is enormous!

When my husband and I are out canoeing, we've seen a lot of paddles that have the chevron stripes on them. We saw these decorations on some of the old paddles in the museum as well. 

There are other non-canoe related items in the museum as well. The next few photos are of a buckskin jacket gifted to a man working for a year as a bookkeeper in Fort Hope, Ontario, in 1908. The native women there made him this clothing, and I was amazed at the details in the needlework.

okay, okay, I know ... too many photos :]

I have a few more, but am tired of writing this post myself. Maybe another day I'll try your patience again.

Thanks for stopping by!

This poem was in the bathroom ...


  1. Interesting museum, some of them are actually works of art.

  2. Fascinating! I am so fascinated by birch bark canoes having watched someone - a man called Ray Mears - on tv making one a few years ago, so I loved seeing the birch bark ones especially. It must have been so interesting to visit and more so for you a canoeist! I would see more of them!

  3. Hello, I enjoyed seeing the various canoes. They do look like works of art. The buckskin jacket is awesome. Pretty poem! Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!

  4. What an amazing work of art! Thank you for sharing this beauty with us and I too loved the ladies room sign. :)

    Bless you ~~

  5. I am not a water loving person, at least not to be in it or on it, but I can appreciate all the work that has gone into crafting these canoes.They are pieces of art in their own right.

  6. Wonderful canoes to see! I should really try to get there some day. One of our canoes is a 54 year old Chestnut prospector, always stored inside. Too heavy to use now, but I enjoyed it as a teenager!

  7. Such wonderful canoes! An absolutely fantastic museum! The talent at making such things is incredible and so useful! I love the handiwork on the items of clothing are just beautiful! A treasure that can now be enjoyed by many.

  8. Canoe always seem such a Canadian thing to me - but with all those lakes of course it is! I loved seeing your photos and they are all beautiful, and works of art, absolutely fascinating. As is the lovely embroidered jacket, a real treat. As children we played in home made canoes in a creek behind our house. My brothers made them from corrugated iron.

  9. What a great museum to visit, must check it out the next time we are i Peterborough.

    1. Thanks Linda, I hope you can make it to the museum someday, we spent a long time there reading through all the little boards of info. Sorry I couldn't respond directly to you and I can't seem to get over to your blog either(?).

  10. I love this post! I don't know much about them but I love to learn and would enjoy this museum. Glad you shared your visit...amazing! Hugs!

  11. Excellent shots! I would thoroughly enjoy visiting this place.

  12. Such amazing craftsmanship displayed here. One of the things I love about these kind of museums is how they are so firmly rooted in their locality - I don't think a Canoe Museum could be anywhere else but Canada, could it? Certainly not ones decorated like these. The needlework, too, tells the history of its particular place. This is a fascinating post and I really enjoyed it (although I knew nothing about canoes or kayaks!). x

  13. Very cool! I always love functional works of art. Thanks for sharing, Wendy!


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