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Letters from Erika: Launching Water/Ways in New York

June 25, 2019 3:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


MANY staff lent a hand at the Water/Ways installation workshop at the Erie Canal Museum on June 27 with representatives from host sites to learn how the pieces go together. Carol Harsh, Director of the Museum on Main Street Program for the Smithsonian Institution (pictured front right) led the workshop.

Dear Members, Friends, and Colleagues,

The Museum Association of New York is so very proud to announce that last week we helped the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse install Water/Ways, the first Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibition in New York State. MoMS exhibitions are designed to share the resources of the Smithsonian and act as catalysts for community conversations. In partnership with state-wide service organizations, MoMS invites small museums to participate in a national exhibition program and create education programs and cultural events that center on local culture and history.  

Water/Ways explores the connections between human beings and water—focusing on the environment, culture, and history. Each host museum will add to the Smithsonian’s exhibition with an exhibition from their collections to tell the story of the importance of water in their own communities. MANY has partnered with NY Folklore to develop folk arts programming that will infuse the Water/Ways exhibition with local stories. NY Folklore Director Ellen McHale shared with me what she thought about the importance of our partnership:

"History" is a moving target as it can be what happened 200 years ago, and also what happened 20 years ago. Too often, the lens of history is conceived of narrowly - omitting the voices of women, children, the poor, people of color, immigrants, marginalized groups of all sorts, etc.  My goal, and the goals of my folklore and museum colleagues, is to infuse the nationally focused exhibition with local voices, to provide relevance for today's current audience demographics while including the overarching humanities themes of the exhibition. For the story of water in New York State, it is very important to include the voices of our Native populations who have important connections to water and who have maintained residency in our communities from before European colonization and into the present day. It is also important to include the voices of our most recently-arrived residents."

There are six museums where you will be able to see the Water/Ways exhibition in the next ten months. To learn more about Water/Ways click here. The exhibition opened to the public at the Erie Canal Museum on June 29 and will open at Wells College in Aurora in partnership with the Aurora Masonic Center and the Village of Aurora Historical Society on August 24, at Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village on October 5, and at the Chapman Museum on November 23. In 2020, the exhibition opens at the Hudson River Maritime Museum on January 11 and at its final New York venue, the East Hampton Historical Society on February 29. 

I hope you will find time in your schedule in the coming months to visit these museums, see the exhibition, and participate in the programs. Generous funding and support from our sponsors allowed us to produce a coloring book for family audiences and an app by OnCell that shares information about exhibitions and programs. 

This may be the first of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibitions in New York, but it won’t be the last. Stay tuned for more information about how your museum may qualify as a MoMS site and can partner with MANY as a host site forDemocracy in America: Voices and Votes coming to New York in 2024 and 2025. 


With many MANY thanks,

Erika Sanger

Executive Director

Water/Ways has been made possible in New York State by the Museum Association of New York. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. The New York tour of the Water/Ways exhibition is made possible by the Museum Association of New York. The exhibition and programming was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Hadley Exhibits, Inc., the New York State Canal Corporation, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Folk Art programming is sponsored by New York Folklore, and supported by the New York State Regional Economic Development Initiative, a program of Governor Andrew M Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Gaylord Archival, On-Cell, are among our in-kind donors.  

The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. We provide advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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