The exhibition dates have been extended to March 5, 2021.
Once it reopens, the exhibit and events will continue to have COVID-conscious modifications, including required reservations though the Historical Society’s website.
In Mankato, the exhibit will highlight the story of the Watonwan, Blue Earth, and Le Sueur River watersheds — the unique geography, many challenges to water quality, and dedicated efforts by many to make it better.
The popular We Are Water MN traveling exhibit and community engagement project invites visitors to reflect on the experiences of local community members and come to a deeper understanding of what taking care of water means to people. Science and history are also included via a 1,000-square foot, hands-on exhibit created by the Minnesota Humanities Center, MPCA, Minnesota Historical Society, and Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.
Pat Duncanson focuses on solutions for the Le Sueur River
Pat Duncanson, a fifth generation family farmer from Blue Earth County, was interviewed as a part of this project and is featured in the exhibit.
Pat explains that over his lifetime, he’s noticed changes in the climate in southern Minnesota, specifically the increase in rainfall. “It doesn’t take much extra rainfall in a system to drastically impact what happens to the rivers, streams, and lakes in our surrounding area,” he observes.
One way that Pat and his family have adapted to this additional rain is by installing a basin on his farmland that slows drainage to the river. When it rains, the basin fills with excess water and slowly drains it to the river over the course of several days. This prevents the river from being overwhelmed by large amounts of water in a short time.
Pat urges each of us to think about the things we can do, “When we start aggregating some of those small, subtle changes, they do have a tremendous impact.” Pat also encourages people to refrain from assigning blame for these issues. “Instead,” he says, “we can come together to discuss these problems, and try to get to solutions.”
You can listen to more local stories in the exhibit, or at mnhum.org/water. Click on “hear stories.”
New award program celebrates “water storage trailblazers”
Prior to European settlement, countless wetlands and lakes covered much of the 14,000-square-mile Minnesota River basin. They filtered and slowed the water entering the river. As land use changed to urban development and agriculture, drainage via ditches and tile lines removed more than 90% of the prairie wetlands. Water quality in the river suffered from this vast change in hydrology. The result? Increased amounts of sediment and excess fertilizers running into the river.
Research shows that to improve Minnesota River water quality and protect our communities from floods, erosion, and damage, we must reduce peak flows and store more water on the landscape. Water storage can take many forms, such as wetland restoration, temporary storage areas, multi-purpose drainage management, urban raingardens, stormwater facilities, and even improved soil health.
The Water Storage Trailblazer Award is a brand-new award program that will lift up and celebrate the many individuals, families, and community groups working on water quality in the Blue Earth, Le Sueur, and Watonwan watersheds. The awards are open for nominations through January 15, 2021.
There are three award categories:
- Water Storage Citizen Award: Given to an individual or family that has demonstrated a personal commitment to manage water on their land.
- Water Storage Partnership Award: Given to a group, organization, or community that has demonstrated a commitment to implementing innovative and effective water storage management solutions.
- Water Storage Outreach Award: Given to individuals or organizations that have raised awareness about the need for more water storage in the region.
This award program is co-hosted by the Blue Earth County Historical Society, Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and the Le Sueur River Watershed Network and a broad network of partners.
Nominations can be made on the Blue Earth County Historical Society web site.
Outdoor and virtual events
The Blue Earth County Historical Society and their partners are also hosting a variety of events, most of them virtual or outdoors. Events include:
- Water Creativity Challenge for K-12 and college students on Instagram
- Bend of the River Photography Club exhibit, “Exploring Our Blue Earth County Waters,” on display at the History Center during We Are Water MN dates.
- A virtual book reading and discussion, For Love of a River: The Minnesota, October 27 at 7 p.m.
- Small group or self-guided sculpture tour in Mankato, along the Minnesota River, highlighting those sculptures that emphasize water.
- Water-themed History At Home with the Blue Earth County Historical Society:
Visiting the exhibit
We Are Water MN is open October 22-December 21 at the Blue Earth County Historical Society’s History Center (424 Warren Street, Mankato, MN 56001). All visitors must reserve a time to visit the exhibit. Visit the Blue Earth County Historical Society web site to make a reservation and learn more about the exhibit, awards, and events.