Smithsonian water exhibit coming to St. Croix River region

Environmental center in Sandstone, Minn. will host a touring program about our relationship with water.




2 minute read


A traveling exhibition focused on Americans’ relationship with water will open in Sandstone, MN in November, at the Audubon Center for the Northwoods. Sandstone is one of six small towns and Minnesota is one of five states chosen by the Smithsonian to host the new exhibit.

Water/Ways explores how water connects history, faith, ethics, the arts, and science. The unique exhibit centers around local conversations, as each host community tells its own water stories and discusses the future of water.

“Water’s impact on humans is not just biological and environmental; it serves as a source of peace and contemplation. We cherish our connections to nature, particularly the sights, the sounds, and the sense of place we feel at the water’s edge,” the Smithsonian’s points out.

The exhibit will open with a reception on Nov. 19, and remain open until Jan. 1, 2017. Hours vary, and are listed on the Audubon Center’s website.

“Water/Ways is a conversation about water,” said David O’Fallon, President of the Minnesota Humanities Center, the statewide organizer of the exhibit. “It invites us to consider how we—all of us—will take care of this basic resource.”

The center’s Crosby Lounge will be filled with four large presentation panels from the Smithsonian, companion exhibits contributed by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and a story-telling kiosk provided by the Humanities Center.

But Water/Ways will not be contained in the walls of any building. It will also reach throughout the Kettle River watershed.

“Corresponding events will help citizens of all ages better understand the history of the St. Croix Watershed,” the Audubon Center’s website reads. “From the Ojibwe prophecy to go to the place where food grows on water, to the ways in which our rivers provided transportation through the fur trade, lumber, and immigration eras, our rivers have been a vital life source for all human time in the watershed.”

From Dec. 1-3, the public is invited to share stories at a Heritage Summit and Kettle River History Forum hosted by North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area.

Resources for teachers of elementary and middle-school students are also provided, whether or not they can visit the exhibition. The curriculum  offers activities, projects and investigations into various cultures’ relationships with water, how water is shared and managed, and lets students share their water stories. The resources are available here.

The exhibit’s opening reception will be held Nov. 19 from 3 – 5 p.m.


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Smithsonian water exhibit coming to St. Croix River region