Bridging Two Oceans: The Complex Legacy of the Panama Canal


About the Institute and Exhibit Program

Founded in 1924, the Middle American Research Institute (M.A.R.I.) at Tulane University strives to promote greater understanding of the vibrant and diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, the area encompassing much of Mexico and Central America.

The Institute stewards an extensive collection of textiles, artifacts, and ethnographic materials and an archive of letters, field notes, maps, and photographs gathered during field projects and given by generous donors. M.A.R.I. endeavors to make these collections visible and accessible to researchers, students, and the general public through exhibitions, workshops, symposia, and scholarly publications.

M.A.R.I. interns have the opportunity to work with and research the Institute’s archival and artifact collections. The culmination of their hard work is an online exhibit available through Tulane’s library website. These exhibits cover a wide range of topics showcasing the people and material culture of Mesoamerica.


Bridging Two Oceans: The Complex Legacy of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a man-made canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the Isthmus of Panama. Its construction revolutionized modern trade and travel, but it was an immense undertaking, requiring significant manual labor, extensive resources, and complex machinery. Workers experienced unrelentingly dangerous conditions.

Photographs taken in the Canal Zone during the construction era (1904-1914) are housed in the Photographic Collection of the M.A.R.I. Archives. This exhibit uses those images to delve into the impressive scale and complicated past of the Panama Canal project.


Creation date: Fall 2022

Acknowledgements: The exhibit was designed by Archives Intern Sarah Brady and supervised by Emily Davis-Hale, M.A.R.I. Archive Manager.

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