Family of Peterborough historian, canoeist donates $250,000 to new Canadian Canoe Museum

Shelagh Grant and John Grant paddle down a river. The Grant family has made a $250,000 to the new Canadian Canoe Museum being built in Peterborough, Ont. David Goslin photo/courtesy Canadian Canoe Museum

The late Shelagh Grant’s passion for canoeing will live on following a gift of $250,000 for the capital campaign to build the new Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ont.

The museum on Thursday announced the gift from Grant and her family. Grant, who died in 2020, spent 25 years as museum volunteer and member and the Grant family has been involved with the museum since its inception in 1997 and opening on Monaghan Road.

Construction continues on the new museum on Ashburnham Drive and is schedule to open in 2023, showcasing more than 600 canoes, kayaks and artifacts. The museum says Grant’s family gift will be recognized in the loft of the new museum, a central community gathering space on the second floor just outside the Knowledge and Research Centre in the Atrium.

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The museum says Grant was an internationally-acclaimed expert, historian and author on the Arctic with works including Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet, 1923 and Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America.

She and her husband Jon paddled many of Canada’s northern rivers together. Jon, former chairman and CEO of Quaker Oats Company of Canada, has served on the museum’s board of directors.

“The Grant family honours Shelagh Grant’s love of the North, its land, peoples, rivers, and rapids with this $250,000 gift,” stated Jon. “Shelagh’s vision and committee work helped to guide The Canadian Canoe Museum in its early stages.”

In the 1980s, through her work as an adjunct professor of Canadian Studies at Trent University, Shelagh became part of an instrumental advisory committee that helped establish the museum and bring Kirk Wipper’s Kanawa canoe collection to Peterborough.

“This gift recognizes the canoe as a unifying legacy, from the First People’s travel to today’s recreation, which is an important part of our rich and unique heritage,” said Jon.

Museum campaign chairperson Kevin Malone says donations such as the Grant family’s allow them to continue “inspiring Canada by canoe — from right here in Peterborough.”

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“Canadians from coast to coast to coast are engaged and giving to the campaign, but to see such strong local support here in our community is heartening,” said Malone.

“Each donation, from $25 to significant gifts like the Grant family’s, is helping to build a new cultural destination on the waterfront that will house our world-class collection and award-winning educational programs all in one place.”

The Monaghan Road museum will close for the season on Sept. 6. To date, the capital campaign has raised 93 per cent of the $40-million goal for the new museum. Those interested in legacy giving are asked to contact Kate Kennington, development officer, via email at

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