Smithsonian exhibit to visit Michigan

EAST JORDAN — A pair of exhibits, organized in part by the Smithsonian, will teach Michiganders about water conservation and stewardship this summer.

The Smithsonian’s “Water/ Ways” exhibit and the newly created Michigan Water Heritage project will be touring six Michigan towns beginning this month and continuing into next year. It will appear in two Charlevoix County locations this summer — launching at the Beaver Island Historical Center on Saturday and making a stop at the Raven Hill Discovery Center in East Jordan starting Aug. 11.

“It’s really special to be able to host the Michigan premier of these exhibits in a community located in the heart of the Great Lakes,” Beaver Island Historical Society director Lori Taylor-Blitz said in a press release.

The Water/Ways exhibit is part of the Smithsonian’s “Museum on Main Street Program,” which cooperates with state humanities councils to offer programming for smaller-population areas throughout the United States.

Rachel Coale, outreach coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Office of the Great Lakes, said the exhibits are aimed at bringing “cultural resources” to somewhat smaller communities that don’t always have access to such programs.

Water/Ways focuses on water on a global scale, offering information on watersheds, water availability and using water as an alternative form of energy.

Coale said the Michigan Water Heritage project was created by the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Humanities Council, Cranbrook Institute of Science and Michigan State University this year to complement the Smithsonian exhibit and offer a more localized perspective on those same topics.

“One of the big things people can learn about from both of these exhibits is stewardship on the world scene, and locally what you can do to make a difference,” she said.

The museums will be hosting a number of special events to coincide with the exhibit, including guest speakers, a “Beaver Island Pirate Party” at the Beaver Island location and a water ceremony by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians at the East Jordan location.

Cheri Leach, founder of Raven Hill Discovery Center, said she was “super excited” about the exhibits and the many events scheduled to go along with them.

“The whole exhibit features the science and culture of water, and our mission is to be a place where science, culture and art connect, so that makes it a perfect match,” she said.

A full list of events can be found on each museum’s website: www.beaverislandhistory.org/waterways-exhibition and miravenhill.org/WaterWays.

Coale said the Beaver Island and Raven Hill museums were two of the many Michigan locations which submitted applications to host the exhibits. After those stops, they will appear in Big Rapids, Harrisville, Niles and Owosso.

The exhibits will spend six weeks in each location, finally wrapping up next April.

After that, Coale said there is a chance the Michigan Humanities Council will launch another run of the Michigan Water Heritage program next summer, but the details on any future offerings remain to be seen.

“We’re just really excited to have this opportunity,” Coale said.

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