Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Canal Makes History

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

A Canal Makes History

Article excerpt

WITH LESS THAN tWO years remaining until the Panama Canal is officially transferred from U.S. to Panamanian control, Panama has inaugurated a beautiful new museum chronicling the history of the world's most important waterway. The Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama, located in the capital's Casco Viejo district, tells the courageous, inspiring, and sometimes violent story of the Panama Canal's design and construction through paintings, exhibits, and artifacts spanning hundreds of years--from a sixteenth-century feasibility study ordered by Spain's King Carlos I to documents authorizing Panama's takeover of the canal at noon on December 31, 1999.

The new tourist attraction is pan of the government's plan to revitalize Panama City's historic center, with help from the European Union, the Institute Nacional de Cultura, and various nonprofit organizations.

"The importance of the Panama Canal Museum," says a government statement, "is underscored by the necessity of educating the public about the canal's history, within the historic process Panama is now experiencing as a consequence of the Carter-Torrijos Treaties, and the imminent transfer of the canal to Panamanian administration."

Politics aside, a visit to this museum--inaugurated in September 1997--gives visitors a fascinating look at one of the world's most impressive engineering achievements. The museum itself is housed in a colonial structure fronting the city's Plaza de la Catedral. Built in 1875 by French architect Georges Loew, it began life as the Grand Hotel. Only six years later, it was sold to the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique to be used as France's canal administration headquarters. The U.S., which bought all rights to the project in 1903 after France's canal construction efforts failed, took over the building and used it as its headquarters until 1913.

When the U.S. finally inaugurated its own administration building in Balboa Heights, the Panamanian government converted the vacant structure into a post office--which is how it remained until 1996. Now, thanks to a $5 million renovation project, the building has come full circle and once again occupies an important place in canal history. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.