NYS Archives | Partnership Trust | Education Department | Office of Cultural Education | NYS Home 
New York State Archives
Throughout the Ages
A Visual Document Resource


If you had a time machine, where would you go? Ancient Egypt? Rome at the time of the gladiators? Maybe you'd like to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence?

The remains of an original Erie Canal lock.

Think of all the things you could learn if you could travel back in time! You could witness great events, see how people dressed, learn what games the kids played, and taste foods that didn't come from a supermarket. You could spend a day, a week or a year in the past, and when you got tired, you could travel back to your own time and tell everybody what you saw. Well, nobody's invented a time machine yet. But that doesn't mean you can't go back to the past.

If you have a little imagination and know where to look, you can travel to almost any year and learn what it was like to live then. Lots of pieces of the past have been saved in what are called archives — big collections of old photos, letters, diaries, newspaper articles and many, many other items. Historians — people who like to ask questions about the past — use archives as their time machine, to travel back and learn what it was really like to live a long time ago.

You can do it too! Using this website, you can travel back more than 175 years to 1825, to find out what it was like when one of the most amazing man-made marvels of all time first opened. It was called the Erie Canal, and nothing like it had ever been built before.

This website is full of information about the Erie Canal. We have designed three projects that allow you to travel back in time to learn about the Canal. The first project describes the celebration that marked the opening of the Canal in 1825. The other two projects tell you something about the Canal in the 1830s and 1918.

All three projects ask you to look at documents and answer questions. After you have completed the projects, you will know a lot about the Erie Canal, and a lot about using documents to answer questions. So, let's step into our time machine and get started!

Project Partners

A portion of the content appearing in this website is drawn from the book, Erie Canal: New York's Gift to the Nation, A Document-Based Teacher Resource, a publication made possible with the support from the:

Project Development