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National Canal Museum

The Science Museum of Minnesota worked with the National Canal Museum to develop, design and build a series of interactive science exhibits that interpret the rich history of America's canals. The large-scale, low-tech, hands-on interactives, aimed at an elementary-school audience, describe how early engineers manipulated natural forces and simple machines to build an efficient inland waterway system. Visitors float model boats through a 90-foot working scale model canal system, loading and unloading cargo and operating locks and weirs. Other interactives allow them to experiment with pullies, harness a mule, and run the finances of a boat captain. Designed to offer maximum interactivity in a minimum amount of space, the exhibit is on permanent display at the National Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania. A modular traveling exhibit, Building America's Canals, is available to smaller museums.

The National Canal Museum received the Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (small institution) at the 2008 ASTC conference for these permanent exhibitions. From the ASTC website, "Since opening in 2006, the exhibits have been enjoyed by over 456,000 visitors and have transformed the National Canal Museum from a didactic, artifacts-based history museum for canal buffs into an interactive and engaging science and history center for visitors of all ages."

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