Smithsonian Exhibit Raises Water Awareness

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Tompkins Weekly 8-14-19

By Patricia Haines Gooding

In our water-rich region, it is easy to forget that much of the world increasingly faces critical water shortages, threatening whole cultures as well as lives. It is well worth the short trip up to Aurora between Aug. 16 and Sept. 29 for a science-based, comprehensive, graphic reminder from the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street, as the Aurora Historical Society, Aurora Masonic Center and Wells College co-host the multi-media “Water/Ways” exhibit.

Here is evidence that good can still come out of Washington: Museum on Main Street is funded by the U.S. Congress. The Museum Association of New York chose Aurora to be one of only three NYS locales for this extraordinary, comprehensive program.

The exhibit itself explores “the endless motion of the water cycle — water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality — while also looking at how political and economic planning have long been affected by access to and control of water resources,” according to Wells College. “The exhibit also examines the ways human creativity and resourcefulness continue to provide new avenues for protecting precious water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.”

Throughout its time in Aurora, the collaborating sponsors will host a series of public programs to increase understanding about what water means culturally, socially and spiritually in our own local communities. Celebrating this comprehensive spirit, members of the Tompkins County Quilt Guild are offering a sampling of how the art of quilting is being used across the country to spur public attention to the importance of protecting our precious water resources.

As the exhibit nears its close on Sept. 27, the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network will showcase early submissions for its Quilting Cayuga project and review what it is doing to protect Cayuga Lake at an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. in Well’s Stratton Hall.

Bill Foster, founder/director of Discover Cayuga Lake, also invites the public to join a special two-hour sunset eco-cruise on the Floating Classroom’s new boat. The Teal will be leaving from the Wells College boathouse in Aurora at 5 p.m. on Aug. 27.

Discounted tickets honor the importance of how “Water/Ways” and its local partner programs underscore the contributions of local water educators like the Floating Classroom and Cayuga Lake Watershed Network (CLWN).

For further information about CLWN, see For the Floating Classroom, see For information about “Water/Ways,” dates and times for public programs, and other details, see

“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. The public can participate in the conversation on social media at #thinkWater.

If you can’t make it up to Aurora, check out the exhibit’s content, background, and related resources at

Patricia Haines Gooding is a Board Member of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.

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