Smithsonian exhibit expands Estuarium lessons to global scale

Published 9:53 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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For decades, the North Carolina Estuarium has sought to educate visitors about the complexities of the estuary and humankind’s relationship with the watersheds we inhabit. Through Nov. 29, a traveling exhibit from The Smithsonian Institution will dovetail with existing exhibits at the museum to broaden those lessons to a global scale.

The exhibit, dubbed “Water/Ways,” comes to the Estuarium via a partnership with the Smithsonian and the North Carolina Humanities Council. Designed for small-town museums, libraries and other venues, the goal of the exhibit is to bring new perspectives on humanity’s relationship with water to a rural audience.

According to a Smithsonian press release on the exhibit, “Water/Ways” seeks to explore, “the endless motion of the water cycle, water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. It looks at how political and economic planning have long been affected by access to water and control of water resources. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.”

“This expands the idea of water from the water we have here in Beaufort County to a worldwide perspective, including religious, sacred, historical and political views on water,” added Estuarium lead educator Russ Chesson.

The N.C. Humanities Council is simultaneously sponsoring a statewide reading of the books “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi for the adults and “Dry” by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman for young adults.

“All across the state, there are book clubs reading those,” Chesson said. “This week, we had our first floating book club, a group from Martin County. They came in and got a private tour and talked about the book and water.”

Also visiting the exhibit this week were Girl Scouts from the North Carolina Coastal Pines Chapter. While private tours are available for groups interested in viewing the exhibit, it is also open to the public during regular Estuarium hours.

Support for the exhibit comes from the National Humanities Center, Our State Magazine, Sea Grant North Carolina, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute.

Currently, the Estuarium is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. Masks are required to enter, and capacity is limited to 20 visitors at a time. For additional details, call 252-948-0000, visit, or find the Estuarium on Facebook @ncestuarium.