TOPEKA — The Kansas Humanities Council presents the exclusive Kansas tour of “Water/Ways,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition about the ways water shapes our lives from Saturday through Sept. 24 at the Prairie Museum of Art and History, 1905 S. Franklin in Colby.
A grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the museum and includes activities, displays and demonstrations for the whole family. Colby is the second of seven Kansas communities to host the national exhibition that will tour the state through June 2018.
“Water/Ways” explores stories of how water affects our work, our play, our celebrations, and where we live. The Smithsonian exhibition connects visitors of all ages to the important role water plays in our lives, including understanding where a community’s water comes from, what the future holds for water, and what visitors can do for water in their hometown. Hands-on activities encourage visitors to follow Kansas’ waterways and watersheds on a giant floor map and to consider how much water is needed to produce everyday items such as a pair of blue jeans or a gallon of milk.
The Prairie Museum of Art and History also presents “Scarcity and Abundance: Water in Northwest Kansas,” a local exhibition about High Plains water history. One of the stories featured in “Scarcity and Abundance” is that of Joseph B. Kuska, agronomist at the Colby Branch Station, an agricultural experiment station opened by an act of the Kansas Legislature in 1913.
Northwest Kansas farmers, concerned with erratic rainfall, drying winds, temperature extremes and periodic drought, decided a branch station might help find solutions to the difficult growing climate. Visitors can learn more about the semi-arid conditions that necessitated Kuska's research and the wealth of groundwater that led to the development of irrigation at “Scarcity and Abundance: Water in Northwest Kansas.”
In addition to the Prairie Museum of Art and History, six community organizations will host the “Water/Ways” Smithsonian exhibition: Eudora Community Museum; Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City; Hesston Public Library; Geary County Historical Society and Museums, Junction City; Symphony in the Flint Hills Gallery, Cottonwood Falls; and Museum at Prairiefire, Overland Park.
Additional stories about the effect of water in Kansas can be found at “Water/Ways” partner sites. Partner sites explore the themes of “Water/Ways” through local exhibitions and public programs; however, the Smithsonian exhibition is not on display at the partner sites. The Solomon Valley-Highway 24-Heritage Alliance presents “Living Off the Water: The Challenge to Sustain Life in the Solomon Valley” traveling exhibition Saturday to Sept. 2 at the Bull City Café, 602 Mill in Alton, and opening Sept. 11 at the Mitchell County Historical Society, 1915 N. Independence in Beloit. The exhibition traces Robert McBratney’s 1869 journey along the Solomon River using excerpts from his diary. More information is available at www.hwy24.org.
The “Water/Ways” initiative has been made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kansas Humanities Council’s Friends of the Humanities, and the following partners: the Mariah Fund, the Sunflower Foundation, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, CCS Family Fund, Matfield Station and Hall Commercial Printing. “Water/Ways” statewide partners are the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Water Office.
The “Water/Ways” Smithsonian exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Kansas Humanities Council. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the U.S. Congress. “Water/Ways” was adapted from an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The Kansas Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization that supports community-based cultural programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities.
For more information about “Water/Ways” in Colby, contact the Prairie Museum of Art and History at (785) 460-4590 or www.prairiemuseum.org. For more information about the statewide “Water/Ways” initiative, contact the Kansas Humanities Council at www.kansashumanities.org or (785) 357-0359.