The Social Life of Water


Jeannette Angel is a PhD Candidate whose research is focused on water sustainability in the Okanagan. Her aim is to use creative, experiential methods to engage people from the community to understand and act on water issues.

She worked with UBC professors environmental anthropologist John Wagner and media artist Aleks Dulic to collaborate with community partners on a museum exhibition, The Social Life of Water, the title of which was based on a book edited by John Wagner in 2013.

“Water is life, it is one of the most important elements that brings us together.”

The project came to fruition when environmental activist Christine Mettler, who had already proposed the concept to the Kelowna Museums Society, connected with Angel about designing an exhibition using media technology.

“This was the perfect venue and perfect opportunity to bring together a number of partners including artists, scientists, community members and a large team of students from UBC Okanagan,” said Angel. “This show featured water perspectives in ways that made it publicly accessible.”

The exhibition uses art, audio, visual media and storytelling to explore the diverse meanings that water holds and has held for the many communities, cultures and interest groups in the Okanagan watershed.

“With this exhibition, we are able to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices together into a common space to share knowledge,” says Dulic. “In addition to exploring the past and present, the exhibition examines our relationship with water in the future, inviting participants to imagine how we might have a more responsible relationship with our water.”

Following the showing at the Okanagan Heritage Museum in Kelowna, the exhibition toured several galleries and institutions in the Okanagan watershed.

The Social Life of Water exhibition toured the North Okanagan Valley, at the Allan Brooks Centre Sept to Oct 2017 and the Vernon Museum from March to June 2018, and is currently open to the public at the Penticton Museum, until the end of August 2018.

In the Fall of 2017, Right of Way, the touch screen environment on species-at-risk access to water, from the exhibition, was selected to accompany a travel exhibit at the Lake Country Municipal Hall presented by the Okanagan Conservation Collaborative Program.

Keeping Connectivity in our Future, the evolution of the 3D touch screen environment featuring a build-your-own pollinator garden, was presented at BorderFreeBees events at The Kelowna Regional Library and the Fat Cat Festival in 2018.

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