Smithsonian Exhibit Exploring Water’s Impact Tours in North Carolina

WaterWays Press Photo

The North Carolina Humanities Council, a cultural nonprofit, will tour the Smithsonian’s “Water/Ways” exhibit statewide in 2020-2021 through their Museum on Main Street program.

Chosen by a North Carolina Humanities Council selection committee, six rural North Carolina host sites will showcase the exhibit in their respective communities. The tour begins in Burnsville in May 2020; from there the exhibit travels to the communities of Franklin, Wake Forest, Washington, Wrightsville Beach and Graham, through 2021. Local program activities for “Water/Ways” will be announced by each host site.

North Carolina’s distinct aquatic landscape of Atlantic Coast beaches, mountain rivers and local lakes plays an integral part in shaping our state’s identity. “Water/Ways” is designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations to catalyze community conversations about water’s impact on American culture. The multi-panel exhibit explores water as an essential natural resource that allows us to travel, determines where we live, controls what we eat and drink and inspires culture.

With program support and grant funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, host site organizations develop complementary exhibits, offer public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to increase understanding about what water means culturally, socially and spiritually in their own community.

 “We are proud to bring another Museum on Main Street Smithsonian exhibit to North Carolina,” said Sherry Paula Watkins, Executive Director of the North Carolina Humanities Council. “Since 2010, the Council has brought four nationally recognized Smithsonian exhibits to 24 small-town museums, libraries and historic sites in the state, and we look forward to working with our six new host sites to present ‘Water/Ways”. This program exemplifies what can be done by harnessing and combining the prestige of the Smithsonian Institution, the decades of program expertise of the North Carolina Humanities Council and the unique histories of our rural North Carolina towns.” Previous host site locations can be found at

“Water/Ways” is part of the Council’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program; a one-of-a-kind cultural partnership program between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the 56 state humanities councils nationwide and local organizations.  

 “Water/Ways” was inspired by an exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (, and the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul (, in collaboration with Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland; The Field Museum, Chicago; Instituto Sangari, Sao Paulo, Brazil; National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada; San Diego Natural History Museum; and Science Centre Singapore with PUB Singapore. Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. It is made possible in North Carolina by the North Carolina Humanities Council.


Host Sites Organization Name

Host Site Town

Exhibit Tour Dates

Yancey County Public Library


May 28, 2020 - July 8, 2020

Macon County Public Library


July 14, 2020 - Aug 24, 2020

Wake Forest Historical Museum

Wake Forest

Aug 30, 2020 - Oct 10, 2020

North Carolina Estuarium


Oct 16, 2020 - Nov 29, 2020

Wrightsville Beach Museum

Wrightsville Beach

Dec 4, 2020 - Jan 18, 2021

Alamance Community College


Jan 24, 2021 - March 5, 2021


About North Carolina Humanities Council:

The North Carolina Humanities Council is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through grant-making and public humanities programs, the Council serves as an advocate for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about our shared human experience. The Council operates the North Carolina Center for the Book, an affiliate program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To learn more visit