The New York State Museum will open the second and final phase of it’s exhibition Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal on Saturday, September 22.
The first phase of the exhibition opened in September 2017 and focused on the circumstances leading up to building the canal and the canal’s construction. The second phase of the exhibition focuses on the Erie Canal’s growth, politics, industries and legacy.
On display through October 20, 2019, the exhibition honors the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal’s construction and features artifacts, images, posters and documents from the collections of the State Museum, State Archives, State Library and cultural institutions from across the state.
The second phase of the exhibition explores life on the canal, the growth and legacy of the canal, and the barge canal still in use today. A key artifact on view through November 2018 is the original “Wedding of the Waters” keg, on loan from the New-York Historical Society. The keg was used by Governor DeWitt Clinton to pour the water of Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean on November 4, 1825 as part of the celebratory ceremonies marking the completion of the Erie Canal and commemorating the canal’s connection of New York’s inland waterways to the ports of New York City.
When the canal opened in 1825, it unlocked the Western interior for trade and settlement, and made New York City the nation’s most powerful commercial center. As one of the largest public works projects in American history, the Erie Canal also inspired a nationwide transportation revolution. Thousands of people poured into New York to work on or along the canal, or just to pass through. Though the canal would eventually be superseded by the railroad, a heady mixture of innovation and determination, and the industrious seeking and creation of wealth, was cemented in the American character.
The purpose of the Erie Canal was always commercial, but since the 1980s New York State has focused on the quality of life for canal communities and promoting heritage tourism. Today, recreational boaters from around the world use the New York State Canal System. New visitor centers and bike paths line the canals and invite tourists to learn about the past.
Photos of select artifacts and documents in the exhibition are available on the Museum’s website.
The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.
Illustration: Little Falls, New York by William Rickarby Miller, 1852.