Smithsonian Exhibit Water/Ways Opens at Congaree National Park

South Carolina Humanities, in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street program, is pleased to present the traveling Smithsonian exhibit Water/Ways in South Carolina. The exhibition dives into water–an essential component of life on our planet, environmentally, culturally, and historically. The exhibit will travel to its fourth venue in South Carolina at the Congaree National Park on Friday, November 13. Congaree National Park, in partnership with Friends of Congaree Swamp, will host the exhibit at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center Auditorium through Wednesday, January 13. Entrance to the exhibit is free.

Water is life. It forms our world and our lives. It allows us to travel; and it blocks our paths. It is crucial in determining where we live and work and what we eat and drink. It is an essential biological and natural resource that people struggle to access and control. Water shapes human culture — our ways of life. It is central to many rituals and ceremonies around the world. It inspires art and music. The Smithsonian’s Water/Ways exhibit explores our relationship to water and how all of these factors play out in our world.

Dr. Randy Akers, Executive Director of SC Humanities, said: “SC Humanities is delighted to be sponsoring the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Water/Ways throughout the state.   It would be hard to find a topic more central to South Carolina.   Beyond the obvious fact that water is crucial for human existence, water plays a dominant role in the environmental, cultural, economic and historical fabric of South Carolina.”

The exhibit will be open at Congaree National Park seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed Federal Holidays). In order to ensure visitor, staff and volunteer health and safety, ten visitors will be allowed in the exhibit area at a time. Timed tickets will be required for visits on busier days–Saturdays and the day after Thanksgiving (November 27). Details on how to reserve free tickets for those days will be posted here soon, so please check back.

In addition to the Water/Ways Smithsonian exhibit, the Friends of Congaree Swamp and the Congaree National Park will host the Communal Pen writing workshop on December 5 and 12 and will showcase youth art on the theme of “How Does Water Move You.”

On January 7-8, the National Park Service and Friends of Congaree Swamp will be hosting a virtual symposium inspired by the themes of the Smithsonian Institution’s Water/Ways Exhibit. The symposium will begin on the evening of Thursday, January 7 with keynote speaker Dr. Robert Greene from Claflin University. Dr. Greene’s presentation will be “Black History of Congaree: From Slavery to the Post-Civil Rights Era.” To register for this free event and to view the event schedule, including a complete list of speakers and presenters, please visit

Also, visitors to the exhibit will experience a unique audio/visual composition called Swales and Sloughs (2020), created by percussionist Greg Stuart. An associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Music, Greg teaches experimental music, music history and runs the Experimental Music Workshop. His work draws upon a mixture of music from the experimental tradition, Wandelweiser, improvisation, and electronics. His performances have been described as “a ghostly, gorgeous lesson in how close, concentrated listening can alter and enhance perception” (The New York Times). Swales and Sloughs is an installation piece written in the open-source Pure Data visual programming language. The piece combines field recordings from fifty locations in Congaree National Park, instrumental and electronic sound, with an archive of six hundred photographs taken throughout the park. Greg shares, “Like the dynamic processes of the Congaree floodplain itself, the sounds and images change continuously, at times creating moments of relative stasis, at others producing sequences of rapid transformation.”

SC Humanities advises that the following safety precautions be taken when visiting the exhibit: 1) please wear a mask; 2) please sanitize hands 3) the number of guests entering the Harry Hampton Visitor Center Auditorium will be limited; 4) Practice social distancing, 6 feet apart please; 5) If you’re not feeling well, stay home for the safety of all.

After Water/Ways closes at Congaree National Park, it will travel to two other venues in South Carolina: the McClellanville Arts Council (January 18 – March 1, 2021), and the Historic Railway Depot in Westminster (March 6 – April 17, 2021). Previously, it was on display at Hickory Knob State Park in McCormick County (June 27 – August 8), the Hampton County Library with the support of the Hampton County Historical Society (August 14 – September 23) and the SC Maritime Museum in Georgetown (September 28 – November 8).

Water/Ways has been made possible in South Carolina by South Carolina Humanities. The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the U.S. Congress. Support for the South Carolina tour of Water/Ways has been provided by Dominion Energy. Support for the display of the exhibit at Congaree National Park has been provided by Richland County Government Hospitality Tax Funds.