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Water, water everywhere...: Smithsonian traveling exhibit ‘Water/Ways’ opens Saturday in DL

The interactive science and technology exhibit located in the basement ties in with the overall "Water/Ways" theme of water and the environment and showcases Minnesota fish. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)1 / 2
SJ Electro Systems Foundation is hosting an interactive science and technology exhibit in the museum basement, in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit "Water/Ways" on the upper level. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)2 / 2

The Minnesota Humanities Center is bringing the traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition, "Water/Ways," to Detroit Lakes this week, as the final stop on the exhibit's Minnesota tour.

"The grand opening is Saturday, Feb. 25," says Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Becker County Historical Society & Museum, which will be housing the exhibit. "The 10 a.m. opening ceremonies are open to the public, and there will be a sneak peek for museum members from 9 to 10 a.m."

The Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit will be located in the lobby and upper level of the Becker County Historical Society & Museum, 714 Summit Ave., alongside the companion exhibit, "We Are MN," which has been developed in conjunction with the Humanities Center's Water/Ways partners.

Meanwhile, in the basement, SJ Electro Systems Foundation will be hosting an interactive science and technology exhibit that ties in with the overall theme of water and the environment.

"We are happy to support an exhibit that educates our youth on protecting our drinking water and waterways," says Melissa Lage, president of SJE Electro Systems Foundation.

Both the Water/Ways and We are MN exhibits focus on "the importance of water in our lives, from a local, state and national perspective," says Museum Program Director Emily Buermann, adding that the exhibits will include space for local residents to record their own "water stories," which will eventually be available online, and will also be part of a display at the Minnesota State Fair in August.

"We are one of just six sites in Minnesota to be named as host communities for this exhibit," Mitchell added, noting that the exhibit would be traveling to Detroit Lakes from Lanesboro, Minn., later this week.

"Two 26-foot semi trailers will be used to bring the exhibit here from Lanesboro," Mitchell said, adding that most of the museum's other exhibits are being placed in storage to make room for Water/Ways and its companion exhibits, which will continue through April 8.

Minnesota is one of only five states chosen by the Smithsonian to launch this new traveling exhibit. Developed as part of the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program, Water/Ways is a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, state humanities councils across the nation, and local host sites. "Detroit Lakes can be a leader in forming a new water ethic," said David O'Fallon, President of the Humanities Center. "Water/Ways offers exhibits, events, scientific information, and, most of all, opportunities to meet in community and strengthen our shared commitment. I applaud the Becker County Historical Society for hosting Water/Ways and bringing together an array of Detroit Lakes-area partners." As part of being a host community, the museum's staff has been working with its partner agencies — including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Becker Soil & Water Conservation District, Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Greater Sucker Creek Preserve, Minnesota Energy Resources, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities and others — to create local programming that fits in with the exhibits' overall theme.

"This project has provided our museum with the opportunity to partner with so many other entities, to explore how we impact water, and water impacts us," Mitchell said. "It's a project that has been two years in the making."

Since October, the museum's monthly Brown Bag Lunch presentations have been tied closely to this topic, she continued, adding that some of the museum's future activities will continue to have a water protection focus — even after Water/Ways leaves.

"Museum display areas are being partnered with our local schools, youth groups, and our local branch of the International Water Institute to bring a child's eye view of water from our next generation of water keepers," said Buermann.

"Our Family Days will begin to include fun water-themed arts and activities as well," Mitchell added.

"In Minnesota we enjoy a quality of life defined by our water. And the opposite is also true: we enjoy a quality of water — be that good or bad — defined by our life," said Britt Gangeness, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Outreach Specialist. "Right now, 40 percent of the water in Minnesota is not meeting standards set for safe for swimming, fishing, or drinking. The Water/Ways and We Are Water MN exhibits at the Becker County Historical Society are a call for action. This is your last chance to view Water/Ways in Minnesota and learn about the specific water issues in our communities, rediscover the reasons we care about clean water, and join a growing community of Minnesotans concerned with water quality." The Minnesota Water/Ways exhibit tour began on June 25, 2016 in New London/Spicer and ends on April 8 in Detroit Lakes.

The public can participate in the conversation to raise awareness of water on social media at #wearewatermn. Minnesotans can enter the #WeAreWaterMN Instagram Photo Contest to win a variety of prizes (details at pca.state.mn.us/wearewatermninstagram). For more information about exhibit host sites, the Detroit Lakes Opening Ceremony, tour dates and hours, and community activities visit mnhum.org/waterways. To learn more about the nationwide Water/Ways tour and other MoMS traveling exhibitions, visit MuseumonMainStreet.org.

The Becker County Historical Society & Museum is open every Tuesday through Saturday (holidays excepted) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 218-847-2938, send an email to mail@beckercountyhistory.org, or visit the website at www.beckercountyhistory.org.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454
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