Water/Ways coming to Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum


Pictured: Bullion Plaza Museum Executive Director Tom Foster explains the intricacies of the upcoming Water/Ways exhibit that is making its way throughout rural Arizona.

In addition to his normal duties as executive director of the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum, Tom Foster has been busy for the past few months preparing for a major exhibit coming to Miami in September, when Water/Ways will begin a run that ends Nov. 4.

Water/Ways, which opens to the public on Sept. 22, is a traveling exhibit that is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils that “explores the endless motion of the water cycle, its effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality.”

The display in Miami will be one of several in the state, bringing a major exhibit to the rural outposts of Arizona.

“They wanted to remember rural communities,” Foster said. “This gives people in rural areas a chance to see something like this.”

For his part, Foster has had to do additional training to learn how to set up and present the exhibit, but also prepare the building to properly preserve its elements.

His training began in April, when curators of several small museums gathered in Bisbee for initial training and to set up the first of a dozen displays that will take place between now and March 2020.

In July, Foster went to Fort Apache to help set up the second stop of the exhibit’s tour.

“Fort Apache was done as a courtesy but it was a real learning experience for me,” Foster said. “It’s about partnerships and working together with other nonprofits…. This is bigger than an exhibit.”

The display comes in 20 crates and it takes five people an entire day to set it up, Foster said. There is also a 100-page curator manual he must become familiar with that covers everything from set-up to tear down, from care of the exhibit to social media protocols.

In the meantime, Foster will have to do additional docent training, so his volunteers can properly present the material.

The exhibit is coming in part thanks to a budget provided by Arizona Humanities. Part of the $1,000 grant will be for basic materials and equipment, such as dehumidifiers to keep the exhibit safe and fans to keep the air circulating.

The exhibit itself comes in multiple sections representing different elements of water including history, spirituality and necessity. The main display will be in the Copper Room, as it has tall ceilings and 900-plus square feet needed for the hefty displays.

There will be interactive elements too, such as the WaterSim, a computer program provided by the ASU Decision Center for Desert Cities that provides water supply and demand models and “where you can type in water simulations to find out how many gallons you use a day and how long until you run out.”

In addition to the Smithsonian material, the water-related work of local artists will be on display as well, including Jon Cornell of KQSS, who will provide water-themed photos as will local photographer Elizabeth Eaton.

ADOT has even provided a light from the top of the Roosevelt bridge, which is part of a mini-display announcing Water/Ways at the entrance to the museum.

Water/Ways is part of Bullion Plaza’s water awareness activities. In June, the museum hosted a workshop for area teachers to teach students about the importance of a very limited resource in Arizona.

“The ASU people brought in 15 teachers from all over the area including San Carlos,” Foster said. “It is really important, because without water there would be nothing blue and nothing green.”

The Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum will host the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit Sept. 22 through Nov. 4, 2018.

Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution, Arizona Humanities, and the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University (Walton/ASU), with funding from Congress, and sponsors including Salt River Project, Nestlé Waters and Chaos RX Optics.

For more information, go to bullionplazamuseum.org, stop by the museum, located at 50 N Plaza Cir, Miami, or call 928-473-3700. Museum hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

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