Smithsonian brings Water/Ways exhibit to Norman Public Library East

Photo Provided

A steamboat makes its way along the Ocklawaha River in Florida in this 1902 photograph from the Library of Congress.

From above, Earth appears as a water planet with more than 71 percent of its surface covered with this vital resource for life. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, industry and more. It inspires art and music.

Norman Public Library East, in cooperation with Oklahoma Humanities, will examine water as an environmental necessity and an important cultural element as it hosts “Water/Ways,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program.

The exhibit will appear at the library for a six-week run from June 29 through August 18, with the library also presenting multiple programs and activities related to the exhibit during that time.

The library is the first Oklahoma location to host the exhibit and one of five sites chosen by Oklahoma Humanities to host “Water/Ways” as part of the Museum on Main Street program — a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations.

“Water is a vital part of everyone’s life and we are excited to explore what it means culturally, socially and spiritually in our own community,” said Kelly Sitzman, Branch Manager at Norman Public Library East.

“Water is an important topic in Norman – especially on the east side of our city – and the library serves as a community meeting place to convene these conversations. We have teamed up with local environmental experts to develop interactive programs that complement the Smithsonian exhibit and support PLS’s mission of inspiring innovation, engagement and learning in our communities.”

“Water/Ways” explores the endless motion of the water cycle, water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. It looks at how political and economic planning have long been affected by access to water and control of water resources. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Water/Ways” will serve as a community meeting place to convene conversations about water’s impact on American culture. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about what water means culturally, socially and spiritually in their own community.

The exhibit also helps mark the first anniversary for Norman East, which opened its doors in July of 2018. It fits as a program for a library that is located amidst native grasslands and the rolling hills on the east side of Norman in its look at the resources of nature at a setting that celebrates the land.

“Water/Ways” was inspired by an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org), and the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul (www.smm.org), in collaboration with Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland; The Field Museum, Chicago; Instituto Sangari, Sao Paulo, Brazil; National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada; San Diego Natural History Museum; and Science Centre Singapore with PUB Singapore.

The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about “Water/Ways” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit www.museumonmainstreet.org.

Find out more about any of the library’s programs and services during its Summer Learning Program by calling 217-0770 or going online to pioneerlibrarysystem.org/norman-east.

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.