A touring Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit titled “Water/Ways” is at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River through June 6. The exhibition is part of Think Water Utah, a statewide conversation on the critical topic of water and presented by Utah Humanities and its partners.
Utah Humanities has had a relationship with the Smithsonian and the Museum on Main Street program since 1994; every three years the nonprofit agency invites Utah museums and other cultural centers to apply to host the traveling Smithsonian exhibit, said Deena Pyle, Utah Humanities communications director.
“It’s a little bit of a competitive process,” Pyle said. “We usually select five host sites.”
This will be the first time that the John Wesley Powell River History Museum has hosted a Smithsonian exhibit. More than 200 people showed up for the April 3 opening in Green River.
The “Water/Ways” exhibit was previously hosted at Freemont Indian State Park Museum in Sevier, the Kanab Heritage Museum, and the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter in Park City. Each host museum prepared a companion exhibit to share local stories and concerns. Green River is the final stop along the tour.
“It’s an opportunity to tell stories of our communities around the theme, this year’s being water,” Pyle said.
The Water/Ways exhibit takes a broad view of water as an essential resource, including water rights, cultural aspects, navigating waterways and how water shapes the landscape. It was adapted from an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Science Museum of Minnesota, in collaboration with Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Field Museum in Chicago, Instituto Sangari in Brazil, National Museum of Australia, Royal Ontario Museum, San Diego Natural History Museum, and Science Centre Singapore.
Another purpose of the Museum on Main Street program is to help smaller museums build capacity to host exhibits, Pyle said.
“We provide training for that and help strengthen infrastructure by working with the board, or help with funding,” she added.
The Powell River History Museum started working in 2019 on its companion exhibit, titled “Our River is Our Community,” which showcases a collection of photographs and artifacts, said museum executive director Candice Cravins.
The community exhibit explores how important the Green River is to the area residents’ life and culture, Cravins said.
Events and displays that accompany the exhibit follow the theme. Local students participated in a photo exhibit to accompany the Smithsonian exhibit and the “River Stories” podcast was created by Green River High School students interviewing community members sharing stories regarding the Green River.
The museum has scheduled several programs to compliment the traveling exhibit, including four weeks of water-themed storytime and craft events to be held outside the museum in partnership with the Green River Public Library.
On May 1, there will be a guided rock art field trip to Sego Canyon with Steve Acerson of the Utah Rock Art Research Association. On May 4, a presentation on John Wesley Powell with Roy Webb will be held via Zoom; another Zoom talk will be held with Utah State Scholar for Water/Ways Greg Smoak on May 18.
To see a full schedule of Water/Ways events at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum and surrounding areas visit the museum’s web site events page at www.johnwesleypowell.com/engaging-the-public/events/.