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Written By Silas Chamberlin
Every year hundreds of canal enthusiasts gather at a different location for a week-long series of lectures, workshops, and field trips known as the World Canals Conference. This year’s conference was held in Rochester–an Erie Canal town. Attending from the D&L was our Vice President, Elissa Thorne. Elissa returned to us this week loaded down with brochures, books, maps, and lots of ideas for future projects.
In her conference program, she had jotted down the names of D&L staff members beside panel titles as a reminder to pass along specific information. One of several notes with my name beside it was “the American Memory Project.” I had used this unique Library of Congress database a few years ago but had forgotten about it until Elissa mentioned it after our staff meeting. The database is a collection of millions of digitized documents related to American history, culture, and industry.
I returned to my desk and immediately went to the project site to refresh my memory. I did a search for “Delaware Canal” and dozens of resources–maps, high-quality photos, manuscripts, and more–popped up on the screen. I tried “Lehigh Canal,” and I found photos and sketches of locks at Sand Island and the Upper Grand. I tried other searches: coal, mines, Bethlehem Steel, Crane Iron Works, Wilkes-Barre. Each search turned up at least a few really amazing graphics or tidbits from print materials.
I am already envisioning how handy this resource will be for future interpretive signs, research, and presentations. You can check it out for yourself at memory.loc.gov.