Press Release

Six community organizations to host Smithsonian exhibit, Water/Ways, in partnership with Illinois Humanities


CHICAGO – June 11, 2015 — Bounded by several of the most important rivers on this continent and one of the Great Lakes, Illinois has been influenced profoundly by water throughout its history.  A new Museum on Main Street exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, Water/Ways, will invite Illinoisans to consider the monumental significance of water in the human experience when it visits six communities in 2016-17 under the auspices of Illinois Humanities.

“A large number of organizations applied to host Water/Ways, and the applications were quite impressive, so the competition was keen.  We felt honored and grateful to have so many good options from which to choose,” said Matt Meacham, a program coordinator with Illinois Humanities.  “We’re eagerly looking forward to working with all six of the host organizations to present this fascinating exhibit.”

The complete schedule for the Illinois tour of Water/Ways is as follows:

Water/Ways will explore a variety of questions about the role of water in the lives of individuals and communities:

  • How do Americans use water?  How is water represented in our society?  In what ways do we use water as a symbol?
  • How does water unite communities?  How does conflict over water emerge, and how do communities resolve it?
  • How does water affect the ways in which we live, work, worship, create, and play?
  • How do we care for our water and protect the resource for the future?

The Museum on Main Street program is a partnership between Illinois Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution that offers compelling traveling exhibits to cultural organizations in Illinois communities, usually with populations under 25,000.

These organizations develop locally-focused companion exhibits that relate the subject matter of the Smithsonian exhibits to the histories of their own communities and regions. They also host public programs exploring topics and themes addressed by the exhibits.

Participation in Museum on Main Street enables the organizations to attract new audiences and volunteers, expand their knowledge and resource bases, and develop skills that can be applied toward future exhibits and programs.

Water/Ways will be associated not only with the Museum on Main Street program but also with Water Matters, a multi-year, national-scale initiative involving multiple units within the Smithsonian Institution and allied organizations that encompasses a wide variety of projects and programs.

The exhibit and associated programs will offer people throughout our state exciting opportunities to share stories about water’s influence on the histories and identities of their communities, reflect on the many ways in which water is significant in their lives at present, and discuss critical water-related issues that could affect their futures.

“Water frequently serves as a vital symbol in our literature, visual art, music, folklore, and religious life.  Many of our most pressing public policy issues, from flood control to fracking, involve water.  For all of these reasons, Water/Ways is sure to stimulate meaningful reflection and constructive conversation among Illinoisans,” Meacham commented.

About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a mission to strengthen society by fueling inquiry and conversation about the ideas and works that shape our culture. Illinois Humanities engages communities across Illinois in conversation in a variety of humanities programs that focus on Public Policy, Media & Journalism, Business, and Art. Illinois Humanities lowers barriers to participation and offers access to programs, events, and grants to all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.