The Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibition is an exploration of the connections between human beings and water—focusing on the environment, culture, and history.
New York State has more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, as well as portions of two of the five Great Lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Long Island Sound. Over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams flow within our state’s geographical boundaries.
These waterbodies supply our drinking water; provide flood control to protect life and property; support recreation, tourism, agriculture, fishing, power generation, and manufacturing; provide habitat for aquatic plant and animal life; and inspire the human imagination.
Water also played a practical role in our state’s history. The availability of water affected settlement and migration patterns of all of New York’s peoples as a source of food, livelihood, and transportation.
As we celebrate the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal, the Water/Ways exhibition will tell the story of how six communities and their water ways helped New York become the Empire State, how canals and river communities played strategically important roles in the development of our transportation, trade, commerce, industry, and culture, and how our lake shores connect us to other states and our ocean front communities connect us to our nation and peoples around the globe.