To restore or not to restore?


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
That is the question.
I have just acquired a pre 1916 Peterborough 16' model 44 cedar strip canoe. The problem is that it belonged to the somewhat famous Myrtle Philips. Myrtle was the first settler of Whistler and owner of Rainbow Lodge at Alta Lake, Whistler, B.C., Canada. Whistler was of course the host of the 2010 Winter Games. We know that Myrtle and her husband Alex purchased this canoe in 1916 but it may have been used at that time. Myrtle Philip [1891 to 1986 ] now has a school, community center, playing fields and a park named after her. March 19th in Whistler is celebrated with Myrtle Philip Day. The canoe is in exceptional condition for it's age but will require at least a partial restoration to be useable. Do I fully restore it, partially restore it or leave it as is? Any thoughts?


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It might be worth having somebody who builds and/or restores canoes look it over....and see what might be possible to best preserve such a beautiful canoe with such a great history....just my 2 cents worth
It seems to me that preserving it in its present conditionmight be desirable if some conditions are met.

Did canoeing play a significant role in the life of Myrtle Philips? What was that role?

If the canoe was something she and her husband owned, but rarely used and had no special interest in (being in relatively good shape, it seems possible that the canoe was not much used spent most of its time in the rafters of a barn or garage), I wouldn't see much point in preserving it as is.

Would a public exhibit of this canoe make that significant role clear to observers?

Is there is a public place to exhibit the canoe on a regular basis?

Even if exhibiting the canoe is possible, it may yet be desirable to restore the canoe, at least partially -- it will last longer and withstand handling better over time with at least some restoration. Further, occasional use of the restored canoe (on Myrtle Philip day, perhaps) can be a great way to exhibit the canoe and celebrate its place in her life.

A partial restoration, leaving some of the marks and scars of real-world use, can make clear that the canoe really is old and really was used. Restoration could focus on making strong any weaknesses that may have developed, and on preserving the existing fabric of the canoe.

But if there is no way to exhibit the canoe, I don't see much point in keeping it around in poor shape that can't be used, making it more likely at some time in the future to be treated poorly as just an old broken boat. Better to make the canoe useable, and therefore more desirable in and of itself, independent of any connection to MP. And if MP really had no special interest in this canoe, then a full renovation would not be out of line, for it would make the canoe more useable now and in the future for its current owner, although the aura of age and authenticity would largely be lost.

I think I would vote for a partial restoration, to keep a sense of the age and past use, but making it useable now and more likely to survive a long time.

Having seen pictures of some of your work here on the forums, I'm pretty sure you would do a fine job if you choose some level of restoration.

My 2 cents.

The would depend on just how "famous" or important Myrtle Philips is.

I've never heard of her but that doesn't mean much.

When I was asked the same question about a White the Sig Olson owned and is hanging in the cabin on Listen Point, my recommendation is to not touch it, don't even remove the duck tape Sig put on.

Some good points here.
If this canoe is to tell a story of it's owner then something would be lost if more restoration then basically required was done.

Perhaps you will/can eventually sell this canoe for display somewhere. But what amount of work would make this most likely? Tough question.
In this case, I vote to refinish. Reason being that there are a number of these in museums, and it looks as if it only needs refinish and very little wood work. 44's are a very nice canoe to paddle, and you would benefit from its use, and they are very attractive with fresh varnish. That is just my two cents worth, and that my be all its worth!
Good Luck......Dave