Building America’s Canals, an interactive exhibition revealing the construction and operation of the nation’s human-built waterways, opens January 30, 2010, at Mystic Seaport.
Organized by the National Canal Museum of Easton, PA, Building America’s Canals blends history and science through hands-on activities and encourages visitors of all ages to step into the roles of lock tender, canal engineer, crane operator and canalboat captain. Divided into four sections relating to key canal structures – locks, masonry arches, cranes and aqueducts – each area will feature accompanying interpretive panels with photographs, diagrams and text detailing the historical context for America’s canals.
“We’re delighted to offer this exhibit to our visitors of all ages,” said Jonathan Shay, director of exhibitions at Mystic Seaport. “Families will learn how canals work and the important role they played in the development of our nation. The many interactive, hands-on opportunities to explore and build will be especially attractive to kids, and the show will help people connect with this fascinating part of our maritime heritage. “
Interactive stations will allow visitors to experiment with constructing and managing a canal by "building" a canal on a tabletop surface while searching for efficient routes along rivers and across valleys; using model cranes to load and unload cargo from canal boats and experimenting with building masonry arches to learn why this 2,000-year-old technology still endures. An interactive computer game complete with virtual dynamite will also test a player’s skill in operating a canal lock.
Additionally, the exhibit features enlarged historic photographs from the Museum’s collections documenting canals, 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.
Building America’s Canals is produced by the National Canal Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota, with generous support from the National Science Foundation. The exhibit will remain open in the Museum’s Mallory Building through October 11, 2010. Entry is included in Museum admission.