The State Museum, State Library and State Archives are temporarily Closed.


Release Date: 
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Contact Information: 
Contact: Office of Communications Phone: (518) 474-1201
The New York State Museum will open the second and final phase of Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal on Saturday, September 22. 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 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.
“As another school year begins, we are proud to present the final phase of the Erie Canal exhibition so educators and children can learn about this iconic waterway,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “The Erie Canal not only transformed the lives of New Yorkers but it revolutionized transportation throughout the country and helped make New York City the commercial and financial capital of the world. We are proud to present this exhibition for children and adults alike to reflect on the Canal’s past and explore New York’s canal system today.”
“As we continue to commemorate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, we celebrate its significant influence to the state, the nation and the world with the opening of the second phase of this exhibition,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We invite students and teachers to visit this exhibition and learn about the tremendous impact of the Erie Canal through historic artifacts, documents and images from the collections of museums, archives and libraries throughout New York.”
“This exhibit shows us why the Erie Canal is such a vital piece of New York’s history,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “As we continue to celebrate the Canal’s’ bicentennial, this is a rare opportunity to see many important artifacts from the last 200 years that help tell the Erie Canal’s remarkable story.”
Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor said, "This expanded exhibit continues to shine the spotlight on the transformative nature of the Erie Canal – past and present. It’s exciting to look at the canal’s impact over the last 200 years while also recognizing and celebrating the current resurgence of investments and recreational opportunities that are keeping the waterway and its adjacent communities vibrant now and in the future."
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.
The Erie Canal directed the course of New York and American history. 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.
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 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 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.