UF to celebrate the centennial of the opening of the Panama Canal

Published: August 6 2014


GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A special weekend of activities to mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal will be held at the University of Florida Aug. 15-17.

More than a dozen exhibits related to the planning, construction, development and impact of the canal will open during the centennial weekend. The exhibits will feature rare and unique materials from the collections of the George A. Smathers Libraries, including photographs, maps, government documents and original artifacts.

The celebratory weekend will begin at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15 with a chamber orchestra performance at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Summerfest 2014, produced by the Symphony of the Americas and directed by Panamanian-born James Brooks-Bruzzese, will present the world premiere of an orchestral piece dedicated to the centennial. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 352-392-2787 or ordering online at http://performingarts.ufl.edu/events/chamber-orchestra-summerfest-2014/ .

The Florida Museum of Natural History will host Panama Canal Zone Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 16. The free event will feature educational presentations, entertainment, storytelling and exhibits highlighting Panama’s tropical ecosystem and new fossil discoveries made possible by the canal expansion project currently under way.

From 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 17, the Smathers Library will hold an open house with curators of four exhibits: “Voices from the Panama Canal,” “Bigger Better Best: The Panama Canal Through American Children’s Literature,” “Panama Canal Model” and “Revealing the Right Route: Cartographic Evidence of Early Canal Plans.”

The Harn Museum of Art will host a lecture on molas, a textile art form indigenous to Panama, by author Edith Crouch at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 17, with a reception and book signing to follow. The accompanying exhibit, “Patterns Past and Present: Arts of Panama,” will showcase molas from the Smathers Libraries’ Panama Canal Museum Collection as well as items from public and private collections.

The Panama Canal Museum, formerly located in Seminole, Fla., closed in 2012 and transferred its collection to the Smathers Libraries, greatly enhancing UF’s holdings on Panama and the canal. The collection includes objects, photographs, artwork, newspapers, books and ephemera that document the history of the United States in Panama.

UF alumnus Joe Wood, the museum’s former president and one of its founders, is now the president of the Friends of the Panama Canal Museum Collection at UF. He serves on the advisory group along with other former museum members who continue to support the collection.

“Everyone who has participated in the establishment and growth of the museum since 1998 is extremely gratified that our mutual efforts with the University of Florida will allow for the continued growth and preservation of the museum collection,” Wood said.

All of the centennial events and exhibits are open to the public. For details, visit http://library.ufl.edu/PanamaCanalCentennial.

Numerous items from the Panama Canal Museum Collection have been digitized and can be viewed online in the UF digital collection “Panama and the Canal” (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/pcm).  The digital collection includes oral history interviews, conducted by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, with former residents of the Canal Zone.

The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, serving as a gateway for global trade. It is designated as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World” and a “Monument of the Millennium" by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The earth and rubble removed between Colon and Balboa was enough to bury Manhattan to a depth of 12 feet.



Contact: Lee Herring, 352-273-2888, lherring@ufl.edu