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The Durham Project

The Durham Project is a decade-long interdisciplinary research and education effort by the New York State Museum that takes a bicentennial look back to the 1790s and a little known era of inland navigation in Upstate New York. The Project is geographically focused on the Mohawk-Oneida navigation corridor; a network of natural rivers, streams, and lakes that linked the wilderness areas of western New York with the core settlement areas of the Upper Hudson Valley, and which promised communication between the Atlantic trade port at Albany and the inland markets and resources of the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes region. During the 1790s, the first improvements to these natural waterways were undertaken to open westward navigation to larger vessels. These improvements included several artificial channels - New York's first canals - created by the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company decades before the beginning of the Erie Canal.

The Durham Project is designed to gather documentary data and identify surviving environmental features relevant to inland navigation 200 years ago, to locate and interpret the archeological remains of the works of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company (1792-1820), and to disseminate this information through publications and public programs. It is a goal of this project to promote more widespread awareness of the significance of this era during its bicentennial period, and to foster interest in the preservation of archeological remains and historic environments that are the surviving legacy of this unique period of Upstate transportation.

The logo of the Durham Project combines two components of the study. The first is the Durham Boat, a late-18th century Mohawk River vessel that became adapted to use in the 1790s canals. This image, taken from an old woodcut, is symbolic of that era of inland navigation. The second is the map of a meander- neck cut made in Wood Creek in the summer of 1793 - the first "canal" of the WILNC - and is symbolic of the blending of natural and artificial waterways in the improved navigation corridors of the 1790s.

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