A view across the canal looking at the site of the future Delphi Bayou exhibits

Wabash & Erie Canal Park in Delphi is proud to announce that we will be telling new stories and building new exhibits, inviting the public to engage with history in unique and exciting ways. This new attraction is the Delphi Bayou, and it’s coming to the banks of the canal.

These new exhibits will expand on parts of the canal story that need to be highlighted outdoors to maximize visibility and accessibility for visitors. These exhibits also relate to history that are not already covered in-depth anywhere else.

Delphi Bayou Map
A map showing the location of the proposed Delphi Bayou exhibits.

There will be three zones, each telling a different story. These exhibits will be located along the canal frontage across from the Mule Relay Barn and the Railroad Depot.

The first zone to be built will include the Early Settlers exhibit. This area will act as a “prequel” to the story of the Wabash & Erie Canal. We always tell visitors that the canal transformed life for residents of the Wabash Valley, but what did that look like? What were the living conditions for those early white settlers, and how did they make a home for themselves in very unfamiliar territory? We look forward to demonstrating the stark difference between this Early Settlers exhibit and the bustling Pioneer Village.

Delphi Bayou Exhibit
A sample sketch of an interpretive panel with an animal tracks activity.

Among other resources, we will use the firsthand account of Magdalena McCain as a guide, and this lends an intriguing new perspective: the role of women in forging a new way of life in Indiana’s early history.

This project has been funded in part by a grant from the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Fund administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. What a way to celebrate 50 years: enjoying all that volunteers have built in the past while looking forward to future developments. The grant will fund the Delphi Bayou master plan and also the Early Settlers exhibit.

The other zones will include exhibits on Native American presence and the Canal Builders.

In the Native Americans exhibit, we will highlight those who called this region home long before the Wabash & Erie Canal was built. Indigenous contributions and culture must not be forgotten as part of the canal story, especially considering the dubious treaties and forced expulsions that came with 19th century infrastructure projects. While this story is not easy to tell, it must be included to fully grasp the sweeping changes of the Canal Era.

Canal Construction Workers - Terry Lacy
A painting by Terry Lacy of a canal construction scene.

For the Canal Builders exhibit, we look forward to recreating the feel of a construction site along the canal’s path. We want visitors to feel the scope of this ambitious project, taking the engaging fun of the museum to the great outdoors. As part of this exhibit, younger visitors will be able to enjoy a unique natural playscape that will encourage physical activity, creativity, and all using natural materials!

When all three zones are completed, visitors will be able to travel to the 1820’s and 1830’s to supplement the experience of visiting the 1840-1875 time period with our existing Pioneer Village, museum, boat ride, and Reed Case House.

One of the best parts of the Delphi Bayou project is that we are reassembling the team of experts who designed our award-winning interpretive museum! Len Mysliwiec, the designer who masterminded the museum with an array of imaginative and fun activities, is creating hands-on learning for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Terry Lacy, the artist who has dreamed up and painted just about all the artwork for our museum, interpretive panels, and lobby murals, will reprise his role to create compelling visuals. And historian Tom Castaldi, who helped write the text for our museum exhibits and interpretive panels, will assist in wordsmithing these new stories.

IMG_7332
The planning team for the Delphi Bayou at work discussing the content and design of the project.

We are also enlisting the brilliant assistance of Dr. Chris Moore from the University of Indianapolis. His extensive knowledge of our region’s anthropology and archaeology has already proven invaluable, and his students will be conducting some archaeological surveys later this year. We can’t wait to see what this new development brings!

As with all our past projects, an essential component of bringing this history to life will be community involvement! This is especially important in the building phases. If you or someone you know would like to participate in building something special to benefit future generations of learners, please get in touch. We welcome assistance from all backgrounds and areas of expertise. You can email [email protected] or you can call our office anytime: 765-564-2870.

Keep an eye on the Delphi Bayou as it begins taking shape over the course of the coming years! You will be amazed at the stories and people that shaped Indiana’s trajectory.

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