University of Florida’s Panama and the Canal Digital Collection

One hundred years ago in August, an incredible engineering feat, the Panama Canal, officially opened to traffic. The construction of the Canal removed enough earth and debris to bury Manhattan up to 12 feet, and the American Society of Civil Engineers pronounced the canal one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The 52 mile long waterway was completed on schedule and under budget at a cost to the United States of $352 million. The Canal dramatically changed shipping patterns by eliminating the long voyage around the Cape Horn and South America. Ships could now cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 8 to 10 hours. By 1915, over 5 million tons of material passed through the Canal annually. (Source: Panama Canal Museum)

With the 100th anniversary, interest in the Panama Canal is high and the University of Florida’s (UF) “Panama and the Canal” digital collection offers librarians, researchers, and the public an in-depth look into the Canal. The digital collection is drawn from the holdings of the Panama Canal Museum, the University’s George Smathers Libraries’ Latin American & Caribbean Collection, Government Documents Collection, and Map & Imagery Library.

As part of the digitation project, the Library is identifying every publication from the Panama Canal Commission and its predecessor agencies. All the UF holdings are being cataloged, and efforts are underway to acquire missing titles, with materials being digitized. Publications in good condition of standard size are sent to Internet Archive, while oversized and fragile publications are digitized at UF’s Digital Library Center.

Thanks to UF’s digitization, users can now easily read the Panama Canal Record, published weekly between 1907 and 1941. Published for the employees of the Isthmian Canal Commission, the Record contains a wealth of detail about life in the Canal Zone. The Canal Record issue of August 19, 1914, for example, contains a description of the first official trip through the Canal. And it lists products available at the commissary with prices, rainfall totals for the week, and information on Canal navigation.

The collection contains many other interesting Government publications on the Canal. Just a small sampling of those titles include:

Take advantage of the great work of the University of Florida and direct your users to primary sources contained in the “Panama and the Canal” digital collection.

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