“Sitting in the LACMA coffee shop, I realized that our work on water and development not only exists in disciplinary siloes, but does not reflect our cultural values or practices around water, nor does it build on our rich artistic and oral traditions of storytelling. Over the next two years, the idea of a water museum grew in conversations with close friends, traversing from a bounded physical structure to a virtual space, a living and dynamic repository of visualized knowledge on water. In January 2017 the board of WaterAid India approved a proposal to incubate the Living Waters Museum (LWM) for one year so that we could start developing, collecting and collating content.
We soon appointed Amit Tandon, a professional architect and an avid water enthusiast, who I first met at a session on gender organized by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, India. Amit took the lead in establishing a data management platform on resources, people, tools and technologies around water and culture. And with Amit’s help, we started commissioning new content, reaching out to potential partners and bringing on board young talent such as Akshay Shete, a young architecture graduate, who has been a keen sounding board for ideas on how we can engage youth. A talk with post-graduate students of photography at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, led to the production of some stunning visual essays on various aspects of water in Gujarat from shipbuilding to ship-breaking, from the dhobis (washermen) along the ghats (steps) of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad to the salt-workers of the Raan of Kutch.
In May 2017, I was invited to participate in the UNESCO supported the launch of a Global Network of Water Museums, co-organized with the Water Museum of Venice. The event provided a wonderful opportunity to understand how other water museums are structured and the potential for museums, whether physical or virtual, to raise awareness of innovative traditions of water management and their relevance to our complex water challenges. As we move forward, we are looking to establish a new ‘home’ for the museum at the Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University and develop a networked, federated approach in partnership with academic institutes and civil society. Additionally, we hope to engage with the Venture Design Studio at Ahmedabad University to build financial sustainability for the LWM platform as a social enterprise.
– Dr. Sara Ahmed , Lead Curator