ALBANY — The New York State Museum today will open the first phase of “Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal."

On display through Oct. 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.

"As we commemorate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, we celebrate the most influential human-made waterway in American history," said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa in a news release. "As America’s greatest public works project, the canal had an enormous impact not only on New York state but on the entire nation. This exhibition is a unique educational opportunity for adults, children and students to learn about the impact of the canal through historic artifacts, documents and images from the collections of cultural institutions throughout the state."

The first phase of the exhibition explores the circumstances leading up to building the canal, the construction and the famous “wedding of the waters” that marked the opening of the completed canal in 1825.

The exhibit features a gigantic canal warehouse windlass (hoist) with a wooden wheel measuring 14 feet in diameter from Mohawk. The windlass was a pulley mechanism that could easily lift and lower heavy cargo from both sides of the warehouse along the canal with only one or two men.

From 1831 through 1866, this windlass operated in the H. G. Root and Co. Warehouse in the village of Mohawk on the Erie Canal. The second phase of the exhibition will open in 2018, which will explore life on the canal, the growth and legacy of the canal, and the barge canal still in use today.

“We’re proud to present an exhibition about the Erie Canal at the State Museum,” said state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “The exhibition tells the story of the significant role the Erie Canal played in the economic, social and cultural developments of New York and the nation. I encourage educators to use this exhibition to teach our students about one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and how the canal influenced the state, the nation, and the world.”

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.