The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the Smithsonian-affiliated National Canal Museum have announced a formal alliance.
The announcement by Elissa Garofalo, D&L President/Executive Director, and Peter Marmaras, a National Canal Museum Board member, was made on April 18 at the D&L Heritage Partnership Celebration at the Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem.
"This unique and innovative alliance combines the assets of the Congressionally-mandated Heritage Corridor which preserves the trails and canals along the route from the coal mines at the source of the Lehigh River to the port of Philadelphiamine to marketwith the collection and storytelling prowess of the Smithsonian-affiliated museum," Garofalo said. "Together, we conserve and celebrate local heritage."
"This unique and innovative alliance aligns the efforts and assets of both organizations to conserve and celebrate the significant industrial heritage in the Corridor," noted Tom Stonebeck, National Canal Museum director.
Since its founding 25 years ago, the D&L has completed over 135 miles of a 165-mile trail from the Wilkes Barre anthracite coal mines to the Bristol port in Bucks County. For nearly 50 years, the Smithsonian-affiliated and American Alliance of Museums-accredited National Canal Museum has collected and archived tens of thousands of artifacts which tell the nationally important story of America's industrial revolution fueled by coal and delivered by canal.
Last year, after losing its lease at 30 Center Square in Easton, the building that it shared with the Crayola Factory, the National Canal Museum relocated to the Emrick Technology Center in Hugh Moore Park, a site that has been home to the National Canal Museum's archives, offices of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the Josiah White II canal boat ride.
After sharing the Emrick for 18 months and recognizing their common interests, the organizations began to discuss ways that they could work together for mutual benefit which culminated in the unanimous agreement by both Boards to form an "affiliation" a legal relationship in which both organizations remain independent but have a sharing of resources, board members, and staff.
Last year, when the D&L transitioned from a government-supported organization to a nonprofit, they began looking at new partnerships and ways to help sustain their organization into the future. "We have had a partnership of one type or another with the National Canal Museum and Huge Moore Park," Garofalo said.
"After more than 18 months of planning our announcement, this past week was exciting all around. he Smithsonian Institution called to tell us that the alliance 'is inspirational… a big deal'," Garofalo said.
"I should also note that the respective boards, community leaders and significant funders have expressed enthusiasm that our efforts are smart-minded for all stakeholders. All recognized that D&L's community impact is quite significant, including historical and natural resource preservation, interpretation and education, recreation, heritage tourism and economic development."
Under the new affiliation, members of both organizations will become members of both organizations. For instance, members of varying levels of the D&L will receive discounts or complementary access to the National Canal Museum, and the Josiah White II mule-pulled canal boat ride.
Also under the new affiliation, the D&L will have access to the museum's collection of documents, paintings, photographs and artifacts. According to Garofalo, the D&L plans to make these materials available for display in appropriate locations along the corridor.
The Emrick Technology Center is located in Hugh Moore Park in Easton a central location along the D&L corridor. The park is maintained by the city of Easton. "It represents a microcosm of the entire corridor," Garofalo said. "The canal is there, the Lehigh River, the railroads, early industrial sites, the Canal Museum is there, the towpath and trail are there. It's a great location for us."
"I'm excited about this," Garofalo said. "People in the field see it as a really smart move for the museum, for the corridor, and for national heritage areas. It gives us an opportunity to expand our funding from other sources to look at our long-term sustainability. It's going to improve our ability to educate the region and help with the long-term conservation of the region."