Educator Talks

Please find below a list of talks offered by Museum Educator Derrick Pratt.
To schedule a talk please contact Derrick at  The Erie Canal Museum is happy to offer Educator Talks by Zoom or Facebook Live, in addition to in person engagements.


Basics of the Erie Canal

Why did they build the Erie Canal? How did they build it? What did they do with it once it was built? Where is it now? All these questions and more will be answered in this crash course on “Clinton’s Ditch.” 


The Conception of the Erie Canal

While the Erie Canal took only 8 years to dig, getting to the point where people could start digging was a nearly 100 year long process. This talk looks at the early efforts to harness New York’s interior waterways and the political wrangling that almost kept the “Eighth Wonder of the World” from happening. 


The Center of It All: Baseball on the Erie Canal

Discover the Erie Canal’s many connections to the earliest days of professional baseball, told through the stories of some of the game’s biggest stars and others long forgotten. 


Erie Canal Industries in Chittenango

The banks of the Erie Canal teamed with industries in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, from the largest cities to the smallest hamlets. One such place that was transformed by the Erie’s water was Chittenango, New York, a landlocked town that became a bustling port in the canal’s heyday. Learn more about the remains of the great factories and industrial sites that can still be seen today. 


The Transportation Revolution: 1815-1860

An examination of George Rogers Taylor’s landmark 1951 book The Transportation Revolution and the theories it laid forth about the transformative role changes in transportation technology has on the United States. 


Oliver Wendell Petrie: Erie Canal Cook

Oliver Wendell Petrie, a native of Oswego, NY, served for 3 years as a cook on board an oil tanker moving along the modern Barge Canal. The Oliver Wendell Petrie collection at the Erie Canal Museum, consisting of many documents from Oliver’s time on the canals, including his recipe book, provides a unique look into the New York State Barge Canal and the late 1930s in general. 


Kids on the Erie Canal 

What kind of lives did kids growing up on the Erie Canal lead? Many families owned canal boats and made their living on the Erie Canal. Everyone in the family had a job to do, including the children. Other children who were involved with the Canal in some way were orphans or had been abandoned. What was life like for these youngsters?


Buffalo vs. Black Rock: The Search for the Erie Canal’s Western Terminus

Today we take for granted that Buffalo was the western end of the Erie Canal, but during the Erie Canal’s planning, that wasn’t so clear. Examine the debate that raged for years which almost made Black Rock, not Buffalo, New York’s Queen City.


There’s No Place Like Home: Syracuse’s Weighlock Building

New York State once operated seven weighlocks on its extensive canal system in order to assess tolls and keep those canals functioning. Today, however, only one is still standing: Syracuse’s. Find out more about this fascinating building that now houses the Erie Canal Museum.


Pathway of Resistance: The Erie Canal and the Underground Railroad

This constantly evolving talk examines the experience of African-Americans along the Erie Canal Corridor, with a particular focus on the struggle for abolition. While parts of this story are unpleasant, slavery, racism, and resistance are critical to understanding our society today.


The Life and Times of DeWitt Clinton

From Clinton’s early life to his career in New York State politics, as well as the strong social and economic forces that fostered the idea of a man-made waterway throughout the Upstate New York frontier more than 200 years ago.


A City Yet

Learn how Syracuse emerged from a swampy crossroads community of 250 people to one of the crown jewels of the Erie Canal Corridor, in large part thanks to this transportation marvel.


About Derrick Pratt

Derrick Pratt Joins Staff as Museum EducatorDerrick Pratt is the Museum Educator and Interim Curator at the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, NY. A native of Chittenango, NY, Derrick received a B.A in Social Studies Education from SUNY Cortland and a M.A. in Museum Studies from Syracuse University. Prior to his job at the Erie Canal Museum, Derrick served as Director of Programs at Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum for 3 years.