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Keeping Track of History Part 2

October 28, 2021 in Uncategorized


The mandate of the MSDC is primarily focused on the steamships and wooden boat industry. Volunteer archivist Mary Storey explained that the Centre has an extensive collection of print material and photographs that cover wooden boats, the hotels and their brochures. With over 6000 photos and a data base that includes about 7200 boats, it may be one of the most extensive archives in Canada on the topic.

“There seems to be a general belief that because we have so much information on boats of Muskoka, that we would have plans for every boat ever produced in Muskoka”, says Mary. In this case, that just isn’t the case. So if you are looking for line drawings or plans for a specific boat, unless it is a prominent boat in history, chances are the plans don’t exist.  Most of the boats built in Muskoka were very limited run, by comparison to production line builders such as Chris Craft. The market in Muskoka was a fraction of the US, and our builders worked from standard model forms that were modified for customization. A handful of boats were custom orders and may have had plans created in their design process.

Many of the images came to the collection through donation and were connected to the life’s work of Richard Tatley and his books on the steamship, which were given to the Centre.  Speaking of steamships, who would have known that about 200 steamships operated in Muskoka at one time or another?

Another function of Museums such as the MSDC, is to use the focus and the collection to learn more and to gather current expertise together, such as in the Boat Builders’ Conference held several years ago.

In the next blog, we will learn how to take advantage of what Mary and her team have to offer.

By Tim Du Vernet

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