Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Smithsonian & companion exhibits in St. Peter focus on water August 24, 2016

"Water/Ways" prompts me to think about all the uses of water.

“Water/Ways” prompts me to think about all the uses for water and much more.

I FLUSH THE TOILET. Wash my hands. Drink a glass of water. Throw laundry in the washing machine. Shower. Water plants.

I never think about how much water it takes to make something.

I never think about how much water it takes to make something. In this interactive exhibit, I learned that 240 gallons of water are needed to make a single smartphone.

And I never think about it. Water. It’s just always there, flowing from the faucet.

This "Water/Ways" art directs me to the exhibit at the NCHS.

This “Water/Ways” art directs me to the exhibit at the NCHS.

But “Water/Ways,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, and “We Are Water MN” are causing me to consider this vital natural resource that flows through every aspect of my days.

The Treaty Site History Center sits along U.S. Highway 169 on the north edge of St. Peter.

The sidewalk curves like a river to the Treaty Site History Center along U.S. Highway 169 on the north edge of St. Peter.

Sunday afternoon I visited the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter where the Nicollet County Historical Society is hosting joint national, state and local water-themed exhibits through September 25. After that, the Smithsonian show will move to these Minnesota communities: Red Wing, Sandstone, Lanesboro and Detroit Lakes.

Entering the "Water/Ways" exhibit, a collection of informational panels.

Entering the “Water/Ways” exhibit, a collection of informational panels.

What does water mean to you? That question posted on a display panel sets the tone for this exhibit packed with information about water. More than simply words, the panels feature interactive aspects that stretch this beyond a compilation of facts and accompanying visuals.

According to this graphic, 40 states are expected to experience water shortages by 2024. that includes Minnesota.

According to this graphic, 40 states (in red) are expected to experience water shortages by 2024. That includes Minnesota.

What would you lose if you did not have water?

A section of the exhibit shows the most common pollutants in Minnesota waters.

A section of the Minnesota exhibit asks, “What’s in the water? Minnesota’s common pollutants and where they come from.” Visitors can pull the cards from the rack (shown here) and learn about those common pollutants to Minnesota waterways.

What’s in the water?

Visitors share water memories.

Visitors share water memories.

One way a visitor pledges to protect water.

One way a visitor pledges to protect water.

This graphic breaks down water usage in Minnesota.

This graphic breaks down water usage in Minnesota.

Visitors are encouraged to share their memories of water, to list ways they can protect water, to learn what’s in Minnesota’s water and more. In this state of 11,842 lakes, water covers more than 13 million acres (or six percent of Minnesota), more than any other state. That’s according to a 2010 “Minnesota Water Facts” report I found online from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

I appreciate the "We Are Water MN" aspect of the exhibit.

I appreciate the “We Are Water MN” aspect of the exhibit.

The Minnesota Humanities Center collaborated with the DNR and other agencies in creating the companion exhibit, “We Are Water MN.”

Vintage ice skates were part of the local portion of the exhibit.

Vintage ice skates were part of the local portion of the exhibit.

Additionally, Nicollet County infused its water history. The Minnesota River runs through this county with 105 miles of river front land and was instrumental in bringing early settlers to the region. My own maternal ancestors settled in the Minnesota River Valley near Courtland.

In a side room, you'll find Kay Herbst Helms' photo exhibit, "Water Rights?" In the table display, visitors are asked to pen their thoughts on water.

In a side room, you’ll find Kay Herbst Helms’ photo exhibit, “Water Rights.” In the table display, visitors are asked to pen their thoughts on water.

A photo in Kay Herbst Helms' "Water Rights" exhibit.

A photo of a photo in Kay’s exhibit.

On droplets of water,

On paper droplets, visitors write about water.

Mankato photographer Kay Herbst Helms brings her photographic perspective to “Water/Ways” with 19 black-and-white water-themed photos in her “Water Rights” collection. Her exhibit, she says, “celebrates water and some of the people who are helping to protect our water rights now and for generations to come.”

Another idea expressed about water.

More ideas expressed about water.

This isn’t the first time Kay has focused on water in photography. She created “Water Vapors” and now “Water Vapors II,” showing through September 30 in the History Center Art Gallery at the Blue Earth County Historical Society in Mankato.

One of many quotes spark conversations about water.

One of many quotes spark conversations about water.

This quote in the “Water/Ways” exhibit strikes me more than any other:

No water, no life.
No blue, no green.

These panels address the cultural

These panels address how water inspires humanity in our art, music, dance and literature.

What does water mean to you?

BONUS PHOTOS:

"We Are Water MN" pins in a jar at the exhibit.

“We Are Water MN” pins in a jar.

This section directs us to look to the future as it relates to water.

This section directs visitors to look to the future of water.

There's even a section for the little ones to put on a puppet show.

There’s even an area for little ones to put on a puppet show.

More panels, more information to digest.

More panels, more information to digest.

FYI: Click here to read my previous post about a celebration I participated in as part of the “Water/Ways” exhibit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Advertisements
 

21 Responses to “Smithsonian & companion exhibits in St. Peter focus on water”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    WOW
    what a fabulous exhibit.
    this is one i wish i could see – and to have something like this travel through the state is such a gift.
    being that the finger lakes region has been in a severe drought this season, could be so serving for such a mobile exhibit be seen by people here in NY state.
    thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I imagine this was a really revealing exhibit in many ways. We do take clean water for granted so often here in the US and it is something that is really a privilege. I love the water droplets and being able to write a wish or an idea on it. I hope this was a well visited exhibit because it is an important thing to be aware of.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Interesting exhibit. I often wonder why it requires such displays or “over-the-top” admonitions of dire consequences to motivate the general populace to use common sense/moderation/logic in every day life choices. We are almost desensitized by statements of catastrophic consequences that hit us in headlines almost daily. I do realize that much of the larger negative impacts are on the shoulders of large corporations who seek to make $$$ from processes that abuse many natural global assets, thereby depleting/polluting them for the rest of us. (big business is not the only culprit in this but does seem to have a large ‘target’ on their back!!!!)

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    No truer words written “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” It is one of those must haves to sustain life.

  5. What a Fun Exhbit to Explore and Learn! I learned a lot about water usage when I lived in the high desert since it was precious commodity. We still use those skills with toliets and shower heads and using the dehumidifer water to water plants, etc. Thanks so much for sharing. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    These are the types of exhibits I loved when I was growing up, for our small school to take us on field trips to. I was always interested in the aspects of living, (rather than some art or history museum which kids do not appreciate at a young age). This water exhibit can spark an interest in the young and old to change their habits and incorporate being cognizant and conservative about water use. I’m the water Nazi around here… but I wear all sorts of “monitoring” hats, like not buying plastics or non-recyclables if we can help it, keeping electric expenses down… making small changes makes a big difference!

  7. Very interesting. It really adds up fast. Thanks for sharing

  8. Don Says:

    I gained a great respect for the use of water when I lived in the bush (no running water or private wells) and it necessitated that I haul it to my house in 55 gallon drums from the community well. To say I gained great respect for it is really an understatement as I never took it for granted and did not do anything to waste it. I learned that water may be used multiple times before casually discarding it. Freeze it to make ice cubes for your drink, then let the ice cubes melt and use the melted ice water for cooking a sealed bag of vegetables and then finally use it to wash dishes!

  9. Valerie Says:

    I’m glad to know this exhibit is showing other places because I want to go. I, too, appreciate water having traveled several places where it’s not so readily available. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  10. Kay Herbst Helms Says:

    Audrey, thank you so much for your coverage of Water/Ways and my exhibit, too. I think you’ve encouraged your many followers to see the exhibit. There are also many activities occurring in conjunction with this. See http://www.nchsmn.org/smithsonian-exhibit-waterways/events-and-activities/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s