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Discovery Station in Hagerstown opens C&O Canal exhibit

May 22, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The first permanent exhibit in Washington County on the history of the C&O Canal officially opened Wednesday with a ribbon cutting at Discovery Station at Hagerstown.

The exhibit, on the second floor of the 101 W. Washington St. museum, features photographs of the canal in use, models, video interviews with boatmen and lock keepers, and rare artifacts such as the nameplate from a canal boat.

"They've done a really great job on this," said Bill Justice, chief of interpretation for C&O Canal National Historical Park.

The museum originally had proposed a much smaller C&O canal exhibit, but resources began pouring in from the Miller House, the national historical park and others with connections to the canal, and the exhibit grew to three times its proposed size, said James Miller, director of Discovery Station.

The museum received about $13,500 in seed money from the Washington County Gaming Commission, as well as several donations from sponsors, Miller said. The exhibit was one of the largest projects the museum has ever taken on in-house, he said.

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Among those at the ribbon cutting Wednesday was Lula Brant Harsh, 95, who grew up in the lock house at lock 44 as the daughter of lock keeper Harvey Brant.

Harsh is featured in a video in the canal exhibit recounting her memories of delivering homemade rolls to the canal workers and being awakened in the night by the call of "Hey, lock!" summoning her father out to let a boat through.

The videos are an important historical resource for preserving memories of the canal, Justice said.

"There are very few people around who really remember the open canal," he said. The C&O canal closed in 1924 after a devastating flood.

The Discovery Station exhibit is the second C&O canal exhibit to open in Washington County this year. Last month, a traveling C&O Canal exhibit from the National Canal Museum opened in the old Trolley Barn at the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport. That exhibit will be open through Oct. 12.

Discovery Station President B. Marie Byers said each exhibit has something unique to offer. While the Williamsport exhibit focuses on hands-on activities for children, the Discovery Station exhibit includes material that will appeal to adults as well, she said.

To encourage residents to visit both exhibits, Discovery Station and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau plan to rent a trolley to run between the two exhibits on June 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Byers said.

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