Smithsonian traveling exhibit to make a splash in Arizona

From above, the Earth appears as a planet with more than 71 percent of its surface covered with the most vital resource for life…water. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, industry and more. It inspires art, music and literature. Arizona has just experienced a historically dry winter, and water is on our minds more than ever. What can we do now to secure water for future generations? The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit “Water/Ways” explores the past, present, and future of water on our planet.

Presented by Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University, this compelling Water/Ways exhibit will travel to twelve Arizona communities from June 2018 through March 2020. The itinerary is available below and online at the new Water/Ways website: Water/Ways explores water’s environmental and cultural impact in Arizona and beyond. The exhibit brings people together to learn about water’s impact on American culture.  Each town will offer a variety of talks, films, programs and educational activities that teach people about the importance of water in our own communities, and in the world.

The Water/Ways host communities each have complex and unique water stories to tell. The exhibit opens in Bisbee, Arizona on June 2. Did you know that during the late 1800s and early 1900s Bisbee’s copper smelters depleted groundwater? This caused wells to go dry. Fresh water was then retrieved from several miles away, loaded into canvas sacks, and transported to the booming mining town by burro. Winkelman and nearby communities southeast of Phoenix are famous for their mining history, but few Arizonans know that Aravaipa Creek and the San Pedro and Gila Rivers provided a rich foundation for small-scale agriculture in the area, a tradition that the Copper Corridor hopes to revive in the form of farmer’s markets specializing in local products. Did you know that the Verde River, one of only two “Wild and Scenic” waterways in Arizona, was once called “the Dirty Verde”? Most Arizonans know that Lake Havasu City is home to the authentic London Bridge, but fewer know that the reservoir created by construction of the Parker Dam in 1938, supplies billions of gallons of water daily to destinations in Southern California and central Arizona.

All Water/Ways programs and events are free and open to the public. Families, children and adults of all ages are welcome. You can follow the conversation online at #waterwaysAZ and #thinkwater. The Water/Ways website (www.azhumanities/waterwaysaz) lists information about each host community, upcoming water programs, resources, and educational curriculum for teachers and students, from the ASU Decision Center for Desert City.

Brenda Thomson, Executive Director of Arizona Humanities, salutes ASU and the many contributors to this ambitious undertaking.  “The Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit should not be missed. By partnering with ASU we have been able to double the number of communities that will be able to experience this world-class exhibit. We expect 30,000 visitors to come to events across the state. Many visitors travel to multiple exhibit locations. They want to see mining towns, the Hoover Dam, valleys, rivers and museums. It’s an opportunity to see and learn things about water you never knew before.”   

ASU Professor Dr. Paul Hirt is the State Scholar for Water/ Ways. Hirt led the ASU Public History Lab. Prof. Hirt and ASU graduate students helped the host communities capture the complex ways in which water shapes history, settlement, environment, ethics, and culture in Arizona.  Hirt observed “Access to clean, affordable water in the desert southwest will become ever more critical to a sustainable and just future as we face continued population growth and a warming, drying climate. Sharing our water values and concerns through public programs like Water/Ways may help us face our future challenges cooperatively and with empathy rather than through misunderstanding and conflict.”

Water/Ways is made possible by support from Arizona Humanities, and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Water/Ways is sponsored by the Salt River Project, Nestlé Waters North America, the American Slavic Association, and Chaos RX Optics. The ASU Decision Center for Desert City Rural Arizona Water Education project is supported by a grant from the Ellis Center for Educational Excellence of the Arizona Community Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

To learn more, please visit or call Arizona Humanities at 602-257-0335. 

Explore Arizona’s water stories at:                       
Join the conversation on Twitter at #waterwaysaz and #thinkwater

Visit the Water/Ways Host Sites:

June 2 – July 15, 2018
Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum
5 Copper Queen Plaza, Bisbee, AZ
Brought to you by the Bisbee Council on the Arts & Humanities

July 28 – September 9, 2018
Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School
National Historic Landmark
Building 104, General Crook St., Fort Apache, AZ
Brought to you by the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation, Inc.

September 22 – November 4, 2018
Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum
150 N. Plaza Circle, Miami, AZ 

November 17 – December 30, 2018
McFarland State Historic Park
24 W. Ruggles St., Florence, AZ
Brought to you by the Town of Florence

January 12 – February 25, 2019
Henry F. Hauser Museum
2950 E. Tacoma St., Sierra Vista, AZ
Brought to you by the City of Sierra Vista 

March 9 – April 21, 2019
Amerind Museum
2100 N. Amerind Rd., Dragoon, AZ
Brought to you by the Amerind Foundation, Inc.

May 4 – June 16, 2019
Central Arizona College – Aravaipa Campus
80440 E. Aravaipa Rd., Winkelman, AZ
Brought to you by the Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition

June 29 – August 11, 2019
Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam, North Highway 89,  Page, AZ
Brought to you by the Glen Canyon Natural History Association

August 24 – October 6, 2019
Camp Verde Community Library
130 Black Bridge Rd., Camp Verde, AZ
Brought to you by the Friends of the Verde River Greenway

October 19 – December 1, 2019
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
1 Burruel St., Tubac, AZ

December 14, 2019 – January 26, 2020
Cañon Elementary School District 50
34630 School Loop Rd., Black Canyon City, AZ
Brought to you by the Black Canyon City Community Association and Black Canyon Heritage Park

February 8 – March 22, 2020
The Lake Havasu Museum of History
320 London Bridge Rd., Lake Havasu City, AZ
Brought to you by the Lake Havasu City Historical Society