Museum of Water began in March 2013, and is an itinerant collection, travelling across the UK and Europe showing its wares and gathering water.
The Museum started on a street corner in Soho, commissioned by Artakt and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as part of the Bi-Centennial celebrations for John Snow, who, by walking the streets of London, painstakingly plotted the journey of cholera from water pumps right into our stomachs, and in so doing saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
His expeditions are echoed by the new journeys of people who have gathered water for the Museum, adding to the story of the water here. The Museum offers a look at water in the 21st Century, begun in a year of critical flooding in the UK, but also in a time of Climate Change, with an eye on a drier future.
Museum of Water is an invitation to take part. It is an invitation to consider this precious liquid and to spend time with it, at a time when modern technology has eased our access to it so much that we take it for granted, sure that it will come out of our taps at the twist of a hand. But the construct of our modern days would change rapidly with any change to our water links. Crisis is quickly met with any flood or drought.
I am aware that the Museum is a Sisyphan attempt to hold onto something that is going, a hoarding of objects and liquid in a century already filled with a crush of objects. The shape of the bottles on a shelf figures forth a graph of our water experience, encapsulated in bottles, mapping our feeling for water. I make no attempt to conserve the water. And relatively soon the collection will disappear (5 years, 10?), and become a collection of bottles, of ways we used to use water, of what it used to offer us.
It is extraordinary to be making this work in the year of England’s floods and water crises. This is a collection of water here and now. Our relationship with it may change drastically over the coming years, this feels like the last few years of a feeling of plenty as the world turns towards drought.
I prize the gifts people have given me, just as they come. I prize the effort that people have gone to, the staggeringly creative leaps they have made, and the feelings that they denote. Their giving and gathering is always a creative act: each bottle and contents a thing of beauty, an act, a feeling. Each person an artist and curator.
Marvellous marvellous water. Here is to you.
See Museum of Water Flickr for a visual history of the Museum.