Every museum in the Mohawk Valley has had some kind of Erie Canal exhibit this summer, celebrating the 200th anniversary of what was hailed in 1817 as “biggest and boldest American engineering project of its century.” On Saturday, the New York State Museum will put its offering on display.
“Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal” begins its two-year run in the museum’s Exhibition Hall, documenting what was called “The Eighth Wonder of the World” when it was completed in 1825. What will be available for viewing on Saturday is called Phase One of the exhibit, while Phase Two, focusing on the canal’s legacy and its many versions, is scheduled to go up sometime in the spring of 2018.
“To me, the influence of the canal and what came in its wake is incredibly important,” said Brad Utter, a senior historian at the museum. “The westward migration, the settling of New York and the west, the industry that was established enabling goods to get to remote places, and the lasting legacy of the canal, well, it’s hard to compare it to anything else. It’s like the internet today. On the people of its day, the canal had that kind of influence.”
The exhibit will include various images of the canal along with documents and unique objects, including a windlass — a pully mechanism that easily lifted and lowered heavy cargo on and off canal boats. It is by far the biggest object in the exhibit.
“The big thing people are going to see when they walk into the gallery space is an Erie Canal warehouse with a gigantic windlass,” said Utter, an East Fishkill native who has been at the museum for eight years. “It’s a very large…
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