Smithsonian’s “Water/Ways” Comes to East Hampton

You don’t have to go to Washington, D.C. this spring to visit the Smithsonian.

The flow of waterways has shaped human civilization, and from Feb. 29 through April 11, the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, “Water/Ways,” comes to the East Hampton Historical Society’s Clinton Academy Museum, examining water as an environmental necessity and an important cultural element.

The exhibit opens Saturday, Feb. 29, with a celebratory opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m., and will be on view Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through April 11.

The exhibition, created in cooperation with the Museum Association of New York, explores water’s role in New York State, which is home to more than 7,600 bodies of fresh water, borders two of the Great Lakes, the Long Island Sound, the Peconic Bays and the Atlantic Ocean.

The exhibit explores water’s effect on migration and settlement, and the relationship between water and politics, economics and culture.

“The East Hampton Historical Society is honored to be the only location on Long Island and one of only six in New York State to be selected to host Water/Ways,” said Maria Vann, Executive Director of the East Hampton Historical Society.Hosting this exhibition allows us to offer an important and engaging opportunity, not only to the East Hampton community, but to those across Long Island.”

“Water has always dictated the life of the East End,” said Richard Barons, Chief Curator of the East Hampton Historical Society. “As a historical society, our contribution to the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition will focus on water and its roles in the early to mid-20th Century. Three areas for which we have excellent documentation are our famous beaches, ice making and ice fishing as well as a section on duck hunting.”

Mural-sized collages, created from antique photographs, will immerse the visitor in a kaleidoscopic picture of East Hampton’s old-time water-inspired activities.

The East Hampton Historical Society will hold an array of community-based programs over the course of the six-week exhibit, all of which are designed to support, illuminate, and foster curiosity about water and its role in our lives.   

“The programs that we have planned provide the East Hampton community with opportunities to engage with the various themes from the exhibition in unique ways,” said Marianne Howard, the East Hampton Historical Society’s Director of Visitor Experience. “Not only are we providing hands-on learning opportunities for children, but we are also arranging a wide breadth of lectures for our adult population.”

Programs include watercolor workshops for kids & adults, a series of lectures, including “What is a Waterway Anyway” by Daniel Rinn on March 12 and “History of Montaukett/Shinnecock Fishing” on March 20, a staged reading of “Salt Water People” on March 29, and a Polar Bear Plunge on April 4.

The East Hampton Historical Society has collaborated with many community organizations on the exhibit, including the Amagansett Fire Department, the East Hampton Library, the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton, the Shinnecock Nation, The American Lore Theater, and local artists.   

“The Smithsonian’s touring exhibition of Water/Ways is for everyone, as water is rudimentary to life as we know it,” said Ms. Vann, the executive director. “Everyone connects to water, as consumers, as advocates, in ritual connections, in historical context, and other personal ways.  Our water story, is the world’s water story…one that binds us, sustains us, and inspires us.”

The Clinton Academy Museum is at 151 Main Street, East Hampton. For more details, call the East Hampton Historical Society at 631.324.6850.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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