Building America’s Canals Exhibit

At Mystic Seaport January 30 – October 11, 2010

Over 100 years ago, America’s first civil engineers built thousands of miles of canals, starting a maritime transportation revolution. Canals in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, and elsewhere made it possible to carry goods by water to the hinterland and bring raw materials to coastal ports.

This winter, visitors of all ages will be able to explore the work behind planning, building, and operating canals. Mystic Seaport’s Mallory Building will host “Building America’s Canals,” a hands-on traveling exhibit from the National Canal Museum. This 1,600-foot exhibit is divided into sections relating to key canal structures – locks, masonry arches, cranes and aqueducts. At each activity bench visitors try a different role in building and operating a canal. You can “build” your own canal on a tabletop surface, searching for the most efficient route along rivers and across valleys. You can use model cranes to load and unload cargo from canal boats, or experiment with building masonry arches to learn why this 2,000-year-old technology still endures. Or try a computer game in which you build and operate a lock, complete with virtual dynamite!

“Building America’s Canals” blends history and science content through hands-on activities placing the visitor in the active roles of a canal engineer, lock tender, canalboat captain, and crane operator. Each activity bench is accompanied by interpretive panels with photographs, diagrams, and text that gives the historical context for canals in America. For those interested in a more detailed look at historic American-built canals, on display will be enlarged photographs of canals scenes, drawn from the Museum’s collection, as well as a rare 1845 poster advertising the New Haven and Northampton Daily Canal Boat Line that once connected coastal Connecticut to central Massachusetts. Produced by the National Canal Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota, with generous support from the National Science Foundation.

Building America’s Canals, an exhibit organized by the National Canal Museum. Thursday, December 10, 2009



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