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Article Archive >> In Your County

New C&O Canal Exhibit Shows Importance of Canals

New C&O Canal Exhibit Shows Importance of Canals

A new national exhibit called "Building America's Canals" recently debuted in Maryland at the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport. Through the hands-on exhibit, visitors can construct and operate miniature cranes, locks and aqueducts, and even analyze the costs of various canal systems. The exhibit will remain at the C&O Canal Trolley Barn through October 12.
The National Canal Museum in Easton, Pa., created the exhibit more than two years ago and has sent it out on a tour that began in January at the Discovery Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The next stop is the History Museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, followed by an engagement at the Works Museum in Newark, Ohio.
The 1,600-square-foot exhibit includes five colorful activity stations, but children entering through the 11-foot-high wooden-lock gates probably will rush to the large, low table that is the centerpiece of the display. The tabletop, 15 feet long and 41_2 feet wide, is a green landscape of farms, towns and forests with a coal mine at one end and a city at the other, connected by a winding blue river.
Visitors are invited to build a canal to move coal from the mine to the city along any of a half-dozen proposed routes. The catch is the cost: There is a dollar value attached to each six-inch canal segment, ranging from $100,000 for a simple length of trough to $1 million for a tunnel. Locks and aqueducts are available for getting past the steep drops that hinder river navigation.
Park managers and the C&O Canal Trust, a nonprofit partner group that helped sponsor the exhibit, hope it will teach more people to appreciate the complexity of building and maintaining the canal, even as they hike and bike the 185-mile towpath once used by mules pulling boats between Cumberland, Md., and the District. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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