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Smithsonian Exhibition: Water/Ways



Arizona Humanities and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University are pleased to announce an exclusive Arizona tour of Water/Ways, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. Twelve venues are needed to host this Smithsonian exhibition for six weeks at a time starting in June 2018. Host sites are invited to apply by March 1, 2017.

About Water/Ways

Image from the Water/Ways traveling exhibit.

Water/Ways explores the endless motion of the water cycle, its effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. It looks at political and economic efforts to ensure access to water, and explores how human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways to protect water resources and renew our relationship with 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. Towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs, and facilitate educational initiatives to deepen people’s understanding about what water means culturally, socially and spiritually in their own community.

Colorado River (Blue Legacy International)

Colorado River (Blue Legacy International)

Seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, energy, and industry. It inspires art, literature, and music.

Water/Ways focuses on the relationships between people and water. How has water shaped our history and traditions? How does it impact our daily life? How will the relationship between people and water evolve in the future?


Water/Ways Resources

For procedural questions about the online application, administrative management, financial matters, and partnerships, please contact Arizona Humanities staff at info@azhumanities.org or 602-257-0335.

For questions about interpretive content, water history, and local story ideas, contact Dr. Paul Hirt at paul.hirt@asu.edu.

Water/Ways Exhibit Image courtesy of the Florida Humanities Council.

Water/Ways Exhibit Image courtesy of the Florida Humanities Council

The Water/Ways exhibition includes:
  • 5 stand-alone kiosks
  • Colorful photographs and interpretive texts
  • Audio clips
  • Video clips
  • Hands-on activities
  • iPad interactives
  • Assistance with local public programming and exhibit planning
How to Become a Host for Water/Ways
Americans and Mexicans join hands  across the Rio Grande, 2014 Lorne Matalon

Americans and Mexicans join hands across the Rio Grande, 2014 (Lorne Matalon)

Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University invite museums, nature centers, public libraries, art centers and other nonprofit cultural organizations to apply. Experience with traveling exhibitions is helpful but not essential to a successful application. Click here to begin the online application.

Eligible applicants will:

  • Be located in a community with a population of up to 20,000
  • Provide :
    • a minimum of 700 square feet of display space for the Smithsonian exhibition
    • a ceiling height of at least 9 feet
    • functional electrical outlets in the display space
    • shipping crate storage
    • minimum standards of security during the exhibition’s stay
  • Have convenient hours that are open to the public
  • Tell a unique local story that ties in with the theme of Water/Ways that will be the basis for a locally produced companion exhibition
  • Demonstrate ideas for strong public humanities programming
  • Develop partnerships among organizations in the community or region
Newport Beach, Calif. The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and  Photographs Division

Newport Beach, Calif. – The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The twelve sites selected to host the Water/Ways Smithsonian exhibition will receive:

  • Free rental of the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.
  • An exhibition support manual and assistance in exhibition and program planning.
  • Publicity materials such as posters, brochures, press kits, banner, etc.
  • $1,000 in funding support from Arizona Humanities for development of the local companion exhibition, public humanities events, and local publicity and promotions.
  • Statewide publicity and promotion.
  • Expertise of and consultation from scholars, statewide water experts and museum professionals.

Sites selected to host the Water/Ways Smithsonian exhibition will:

  • Assign a project director for the exhibition who will attend planning meetings and coordinate the project from beginning to end.
  • Implement publicity in your local community and region in cooperation with Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University.
  • Produce a local companion exhibition and host public humanities programs
  • Host a grand opening/ribbon cutting and invite public officials, media, legislators, congressional representatives, and others.
  • Provide a cost share report at the project’s conclusion tracking all staff and volunteer time, facility expenses, and other donated resources.
  • Provide a secure, dry space to store empty exhibition crates for the duration of the exhibition.
  • Engage in cooperative publicity
  • Contribute hard work and some out-of-pocket expenses.
When will Water/Ways be in Arizona?

The Water/Ways exhibition arrives in June 2018 and will travel to twelve sites in Arizona over a two-year period. Each site will host the Water/Ways exhibit for six weeks at a time. After host-sites are chosen from the applications, Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University will be working with each site individually and as a group for trainings, developing programming, and more.

State Scholar for Water/Ways
Dr. Paul Hirt

Dr. Paul Hirt

Paul Hirt is a Professor of History, Senior Sustainability Scholar, and member of the public history faculty at Arizona State University. He specializes in the American West, environmental history, and sustainability studies. Hirt’s publications include a 2012 monograph on the history of electric power in the US Northwest and British Columbia titled The Wired Northwest, a monograph on the history of national forest management since WWII, titled A Conspiracy of Optimism (1994), and more than two dozen articles and book chapters on various topics in environmental history, including two essays on water and sustainability in Arizona. Dr. Hirt conceived and directed the “Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon” project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities he chairs the American Society for Environmental History’s Advisory Board for Professional Development and Public Engagement, and he is an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Salt River Project. 

Ready to apply?

Click here to begin your online Water/Ways Host Application.

Applications are due March 1, 2017.

Water/Ways is part of the Smithsonian’s Think Water Initiative to raise awareness of water as a critical resource for life through exhibitions, educational resources and public programs. Participate in the conversation on social media at #thinkwater and #waterwaysAZ.

Please note: Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University will move forward with Water/Ways projects as funding allows. The Smithsonian host site application process is competitive. No organization is guaranteed to be selected as a Smithsonian host site.

Water/Ways traveling exhibition may be used for educational purposes only. Water/Ways may not be used toward commercial or political ends.

Water/Ways has been made possible in Arizona by Arizona Humanities and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.


Water/Ways is part of the Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. Learn more at www.museumonmailstreet.org.