A new state grant will bring a performance about the Underground Railroad to thousands of children, add a new train-versus-canal exhibit at the ALCO Heritage Museum, and create bicycling maps for those who want to travel from the Erie Canal to the historic sites inland.
Nine grants were announced Friday by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, which began offering grants last year to help tell the story of the historic canal.
Three of the grants will go to Capital District organizations: the American Locomotive Company Heritage Museum in Schenectady, the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and the state Bicycling Coalition.
The ALCO Museum received $4,500 to build a new exhibit showing how railroads competed with the canals in the early 19th century.
Museum Director Jim Cesare said the exhibit would focus on the predecessor to Alco — the Schenectady Locomotive Works.
Trains competed with the canal system. Locomotives could go faster than the canal barges, but the barges could carry much more — at least at first.
As technology improved, locomotive engines became strong enough to move more goods than the barges. At that point, the railroads won, he said.
The exhibit will include a touch-screen game in which students can race barges and trains, comparing different cargoes and how quickly they can get the entire shipment to its destination. Cesare said he hopes the exhibit will be open by September.
But there are many other stories along the canalway that don’t directly involve the canal.
The Capital Repertory Theatre received $7,000 to put on a five-week performance tour of its play about the Underground Railroad. It describes “the important role we played in moving thousands of slaves to freedom,” said Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill.
The play will be seen by more than 15,000 students this spring.
“Because of this grant, we can go to schools that otherwise could not afford it and we can go to community centers, sometimes for no cost,” she said.
Somewhat farther away, the state Bicycling Coalition received $2,500 to create maps in four counties, the closest of which is Madison.
Project Manager Harvey Botzman said residents would design loops of five, 10 and 20 miles, each starting and ending at the canal. He picked counties that don’t have any bicycling maps now, he said. The maps will focus on historic sites in nearby towns and rural areas.
Advertising restrictions will probably prevent the coalition from including lodging on the maps, he said.
“But you can use that map in the second printing — the Chamber of Commerce can sell advertising,” he said, suggesting that those sales could pay for subsequent printings. He hopes to have the maps done by summer.
This is the second year of the grant program, which is funded by the National Park Service.
Also receiving grants were:
• H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego; $3,500 to attempt to get the Derrick Boat 8 onto the National Register of Historic Places.
• Rochester Museum and Science Center; $6,250 to upgrade a canal lock exhibit.
• History Center in Tompkins County; $2,050 to create an exhibit about the canal’s impact on Ithaca.
• Hoag Library in Albion; $7,000 to create an exhibit about the history of the Erie Canal in Albion.
• Village of Canastota and the Canastota Canal Town Museum; $7,000 for an area adjacent to the old Erie Canal, where artists will draw two murals depicting the economic impact of the canal.
• Village of Spencerport; $2,500 to create a walking tour and guide to the history of the village.