Smithsonian water exhibit visits Palatka’s St. Johns River Center
Palatka’s St. Johns River Center is the first stop in Florida for a Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit expected to get people talking about water.
“This is the perfect place,” said Carol Harsh, Museum on Main Street director.
The exhibit, Water/Ways, will be featured at the River Center May 28-July 9. It will be featured throughout the year in High Springs, Miami Springs, Okeechobee, Sanibel and Tampa and Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota and Wyoming.
“It’s a broad story that can really go anywhere, about what water means to you,” Harsh said. “In Palatka, the settlement of the town is related to the river.”
Harsh said local history and learning about water’s connection to local culture is important for people to understand current and potential water issues.
During a gathering in Palatka Tuesday evening, Harsh said, she heard many memories connected to waterways in Putnam County. Whether discussing recreation, spirituality or science, water has some meaning to everyone, she said.
“Without taking a political stance, this (exhibit) is a way to get people to come together around topics and discover how we can work together to protect such a valuable resource,” Harsh said.
The Putnam County Historical Society applied for a grant supporting the exhibit in Palatka earlier this year after it was advertised by the state Humanities Council.
Humanities council program coordinator Alex Buell said the project supporting the Museum on Main Street exhibit aims to serve small, rural towns. He said the selection committee chose exhibit locations based on the quality of the applications.
While the tour dates were selected based on the applicant’s preference and geographic location, Buell said, Palatka will be a great starting point for the Water/Ways exhibit.
“There’s a cool connection to the water, and this building is great for it,” he said.
The exhibit is a part of the Smithsonian’s Water Matters initiative. The initiative includes the Water/Ways exhibit in small and rural museums, focusing on the relationships between people and water. The initiative also includes the H20 Today exhibit in museums in larger cities, exploring global water issues and water science.
For exhibit feedback and to share water stories, use #mywaterstory on Facebook and Twitter.
The Water/Ways exhibit will be open to the public this weekend during the Blue Crab Festival on the riverfront. The St. Johns River Center is located at 102 First Ave. in Palatka.