“Canadian Museum of Water” announced for Port McNicoll

"Canadian Museum of Water" announced for Port McNicoll
The Keewatin at her berth on the Port McNicoll waterfront in July 2021.

Efforts to prevent the loss of the historic CP steamship S.S. Keewatin by Port McNicoll, Ontario, on southeastern Georgian Bay have taken a fresh twist, with the announcement by several individuals involved in the Keewatin affair that they have established a “Canadian Museum of Water” in Port McNicoll.

The saga of the Keewatin is a bit beyond the scope of this website, but in brief, the historic vessel, built in 1907, was a fixture of Port McNicoll when it was a Canadian Pacific port, running to Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). She was a private waterfront tourist destination in Michigan when Skyline Investments, which was developing the Port McNicoll waterfront, purchased her and had her moved to her old home. The ship was renovated and operated as a museum by local volunteers. Skyline recently decided to divest itself of its Port McNicoll development, and with the board overseeing the ship, tried to arrange the Keewatin‘s donation to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston, Ontario. Local volunteers however rebelled, the ship so far has remained at its Port McNicoll berth, and there has been an impasse between Skyline and volunteers who have wanted to reopen the ship as a tourist attraction and perform maintenance. You can read about the latest non-news on that front here.

I have been sympathetic to the cause of keeping the Keewatin in her historic home port, and over the past year had heard of ideas to create some larger presence on the Port McNicoll waterfront—a centre for Great Lakes science has been floating around—that could incorporate the Keewatin. Now we learn that three key figures in the save-the-Keewatin movement, Dan Travers, Fred Addis, and Mila Somers, are involved in Canadian Museum of Water, which could (but they say won’t necessarily have to) include the ship. Travers is the exhibit developer, Addis the curator, and Somers the communications director. Bruce Stanton, the former local MP who served as speaker of the house from 2016 to 2021, is serving as chair. The museum has already affiliated itself with UNESCO. It currently is an online-only entity, and its first exhibit happens to be on the history of the Keewatin. It wants to mount another online exhibition this summer, featuring, 2,022 images of water from across the country, and is inviting submissions.

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