Only three percent of the water on earth is drinkable. More water is hidden underground than in all of earth’s rivers, lakes and streams combined. Thirty five percent of all the water people use comes from these underground reservoirs called aquifers.
Facts revealing the way humans use water in the 21st century are central to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s new exhibit, “H2O Today.” The University of Oregon brought the exhibit to campus through a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The American Museum of Natural History in New York developed the original concept.
Kristin Strommer, communications manager at the MNCH said, it can be a challenge to reproduce the spirit of the prestigious Smithsonian and infuse the MNCH’s local, unique twist on the exhibit.
Besides the panels imported from the Smithsonian, the MNCH’s version of the H2O exhibit incorporates a video display board devoted to University of Oregon faculty working on water security issues.
“Our collections are primarily concerned with anthropology and paleontology,” Strommer said. “But there is so much going on at the University of Oregon in terms of scientific research that we really want to be able to show our public.”
The MNCH also designed interactive wall of plastic jugs that reveal how many gallons of water are required to produce certain goods like clothing and food. For example, one ream of paper takes around 1300 gallons to produce, according to Strommer.
The exhibit reinforces and expands on an idea that everyone learns at a young age. One panel reads: “Life exists only where there is water, and humans are totally dependent on access to fresh water each day.” The panels feature photos from around the world showing the endless ways people rely on water. Along with the photos, text descriptions and graphics describe how water drives food production, inspires art, influences faith and determines global climate.
The exhibit also draws attention to the inescapable facts of the human relationship with water. Many parts of the world lack access to clean water. Dirty or untreated water is often the conduit of disease, plus pollution adds strain to the drinkability of many water bodies.
Another panel says: “Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease. One in 10 people lack access to clean water. Women and children spend 125 million hours each day collecting water.”
Eugene resident Erica Mcgarrey said she came to the exhibit because she was curious what an entire exhibit devoted solely to water would look like. She was surprised to see the water usage of some of her household appliances such as her washing machine.
“It’s cool,” Mcgarrey said. “I’m learning things that I never even think about on a daily basis.”
H20 Today opened January 20. The MNCH is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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