Joyce McIntosh hopes a land site can be found in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, to exhibit the 56ft long model of the Charlotte Dundas which is being stored in a boatyard in Arbroath.
She hopes money can be raised to repair the replica which was built in the 1980s and that an exhibition could be established, highlighting the steamer's critical role in the industrial revolution.
The 64-year-old secretary of the recently formed Friends of Charlotte Dundas said: "It is deeply distressing to find an almost total absence of recognition for an item of world importance - the Charlotte Dundas. She's an important part of history and yet a lot of people locally have never even heard of her. That's a real shame."
Ms McIntosh, who lives in West Calder, West Lothian, is a direct descendant of William Symington, the Scottish inventor and engineer, born in Leadhills, Lanarkshire, in 1764, who designed the Charlotte Dundas.
The pioneering canal steamer - the world's first practical steamship - was built in Grangemouth in 1801 and made her first journey in March 1803 - steaming 19 miles along the Forth and Clyde Canal into Glasgow.
Ms McIntosh added: "We want a land-based site to be found for the restored vessel so members of the public can view the historical design and operations and the pivotal place it had in the steam ship navigation and the industrial revolution.
"It could be a focal point for community learning and teaching exemplified in an interactive web site, lesson plans for visitors and local schools and programmes for site visitors. The project could be achieved in a relatively short period after funding confirmation."
In 2006 the replica vessel was moved from the Falkirk Wheel park to storage in Arbroath until a decision could be made as to her future. Ms McIntosh said the replica was in a state of extreme disrepair and urgent action was required.
The Friends of Charlotte Dundas group had hoped that the restored vessel could be incorporated into the new Helix eco-park between Falkirk and Grangemouth but it is understood the idea was turned down. The Kelpies, two 300-tonne, 100ft-high sculptures of horses' heads, by renowned sculptor Andy Scott form the centrepiece of the development which it is hoped will become Scotland's latest cultural landmark.