Roanoke Canal Museum
Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina
Embracing Unique Architecture
Located along the Roanoke River, Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina was once bustling with the transportation of goods from east to west along this crucial water route and on the canal that circumvented the rapids there. Housed in a former electric power generation station adjacent to the canal locks, the Roanoke Canal Museum walks visitors through the story of how the canals came to be, why they were needed and how they worked. With a series of colorful graphic panels, vignettes and period artifacts the exhibits detail the life and the eventual decline of the canal, and the growth of the towns and modern commerce in the region. The second section of exhibits offers various power generation interactive and working models. At one station, a hand crank gives visitors a chance to generate electricity using their own muscle power.
Outdoor Trail Graphics
Outside, the canal trail is a seven and a half mile long nature trail that runs along the old canal tow path. The trail is dotted with remnants of the canal’s history, the centerpiece of which is the Chockoyotte Creek Aqueduct, a magnificently preserved hand cut stone arch that carried the canal over the creek. Orientation, wayfinding and directional signage guide visitors on the trail and to each of the sites along the way. The overall strategy of the design was to approach the Canal Trail as a seven and a half mile long museum.
Museum Community Outreach
The Roanoke Canal Trail and Museum is also a great example of community involvement in the design process, fabrication and ultimate success of the project. The local community, especially middle school and high school kids took part in a series of workshops early in the process and continued their involvement through the installation of the museum and signage.
National Parks Service Network to Freedom
In 2015, the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail was officially designated as part of the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom, signifying it as part of the Underground Railroad.