Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wood Chips on the Museum Floor: Honouring CCM's Traditional Collection with Sawdust

Dugout collection at CCM

I don't just mean the wood chips and sawdust that inevitably comes from age old canoes and kayaks like the many in CCM's collection. Yes, its true, traditional crafts degrade naturally, and it is paradoxical for museum's to try and preserve them. Or is it? What if we took a different approach to preserving heritage, rather than putting everything on shelves, why not keep the traditions alive? That's the approach of the Canadian Canoe Museum, to keep the woodchips on the floor from the practice of these age old traditions. 

Kayaks on display

In The Living Tradition and workshop initiatives of the museum, the chips are flying and people are learning, having fun with the traditions. At the museum, you can make paddles, canoes, and learn a host of skills from the past, important for the future. What a better way to learn of other times and cultures, by participating in them!

Russ Parker in a finished skin on frame kayak

I've spent a lot of my time at the museum observing and learning from these efforts. After making my knife, I've had wonderful opportunities to learn from the volunteer artisans that come to the museum to support these programs. Just this week we cut ribs of cedar (and how good it smelled) for a new cedar canvass canoe to be auctioned in support of the museum. A cedar canvass canoe was the first of the "white man's" canoe using Native American designs. Canvass replaces bark and the canoe is built from the inside, ribs first, while the birchbark canoe was built from the outside in. Both are gorgeous.

Jeremy and Russ cutting ribs. 

Jeremy, doin' his thang. Measuring ribs for a new cedar canvass

At the museum there are other opportunities to piece together the past contexts of the crafts. For example there is a trader's store where you can see and feel the goods, particularly pelts, that would have been traded. You can try on clothes of the voyagers or make snow shoes of the far north. You can also play a canoe made into a massive drum (if you didn't know, im a drummer!).

The lovely Lauren, dressed as a voyaguer

The thing that inspires me the most about all of this, is the ability for these traditions to be in dialogue with each other. Canoes from different times, different cultures, places, and perspectives can exist in the same room and it only makes it more peaceful, interesting and fun. I can think of no better metaphor or lesson for modern society than this. 

Dugouts in Dialogue

1 comment:

  1. Man oh man, the amount of time and woodworking skill it must have taken to make all of those things... I can't even fathom it. It probably would have been a lot easier if they had a Yufchina wood crusher at their disposal, too.