Press Release: State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource Exhibition Makes a Splash at Field Museum

August 26, 2019 Exhibition

Those of us with access to water can rely on the simplicity of turning a knob or pushing a button for a clean, cool, and constant supply whenever we desire. But how does our most valuable resource travel from tunnel to tap? What is its journey? 

Opening on September 13, the Field Museum’s newest exhibition, State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource, showcases the designs and architecture behind the water systems we use every day. The exhibition will feature 31 photographs from award-winning photographer Brad Temkin’s book The State of Water, published by Radius Books. A native Chicagoan with a passion for capturing overlooked and unknown places, Temkin’s work is also an important tool for conservationists. 

“People think very one-dimensionally when it comes to water,” says Dr. Katherine Moore Powell, a climate change ecologist at the Field Museum. “We can struggle to look for a real-world picture to understand these complicated ideas. For instance, at the MWRD [Metropolitan Water Reclamation District], water is purified at a rate of one million gallons per minute. That’s incredible!  How are people supposed to appreciate what that even looks like, without seeing it first? We have a lot of daily interactions with water but most people know so little about the full cycle.”

Visitors will encounter striking images such as West Bull Nose, which depicts the exit of the Deep Tunnel in Chicago. The photo invites viewers to stare down a portion of the 109 miles of tunnel, the enormity of the infrastructure is not lost, leaving viewers to witness the massive system that prevents flooding in the streets. In the image, a small stream of water sits at the bottom, but during the city’s heaviest rainfall the reservoir can fill completely. At about 17.5 billion gallons, the tunnel is prepared to move a little over 26,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“These pictures address the importance of water and celebrate ideas in design, showing the inventiveness in infrastructure and architecture that no one ever thinks about, supporting our need for accommodating nature,” says Temkin.

All images in the gallery were taken in major cities, with nearly a third of them taken in Chicago. While the setting may be familiar to Chicagoans, the abstract photographs show the systems beneath the sidewalks. Temkin’s photography puts visitors face-to-face with the systems and techniques that deliver our most valuable resource. In doing so, his work encourages us to see water conservation as a process we can all get involved in. 

The exhibition will be on display in the Comer Gallery from September 13, 2019, to January 12, 2020. Please visit our exhibition website link for more information fieldmuseum.org/stateofwater. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the exhibition as part of general admission. This exhibition was created by Brad Temkin and the Field Museum. State of Water: Our Most Valuable Resource is supported by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.