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Home is where the water is: Franklin Creek Grist Mill to host Smithsonian exhibit

Location one of 6 chosen throughout state

FRANKLIN GROVE – The Franklin Grove Creek and Preservation Corp. is one of three locations across the nation debuting a new traveling Smithsonian exhibit today.

The Grist Mill, in the Franklin Creek State Natural Area, is hosting Water/Ways, an exhibit that focuses on the relationships between people and water developed by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

The site is one of six areas throughout the state chosen by Illinois Humanities to accommodate the exhibit at different intervals through 2017.

Franklin Creek has first dibs.

"Water is an extremely important topic, and it is critical to all life," said Donna Ducharme, chairwoman of the preservation board. "We are excited to bring a high-quality exhibit to our area that our community can surely enjoy."

The statewide six were plucked from a pool of 18 applicants last year, and the Franklin Creek staff have been planning for the past several months to pair the Smithsonian exhibit with a local one, and offer water-themed programs during the summer, Franklin Creek coordinator Alyssa Rod said.

"People think water is an infinite resource, but that's not going to be the case if we don't protect it," Rod said. "This presents a great opportunity to educate the community about the importance of our local waterways and what they can do to preserve them."

The exhibits feature historic and future outlooks on local and national water systems, detailing the cyclical relationship between water and animals, plants and geology, as well as issues they face.

Water/Ways includes a virtual sandbox for visitors, who can create their own watershed and participate in a variety of interactive options, Ducharme said.

Organizations across five states are scheduled to host the exhibit, and along with Franklin Creek, the other two opening this weekend are the Idaho Falls Public Library in Idaho and the St. Johns River Center in Palatka, Florida.

The traveling exhibit is part of the Smithsonian's Museum of Main Street initiative, which aims to bring projects like Water/Ways to smaller towns and rural areas.

"Water is responsible for feeding the land, especially in the area," Rod said. "In addition, the water-powered grist mill speaks to that historical importance as well."

The preservation corporation also has planned water-themed programs to complement the exhibits, including nature day on June 11, an evening program and dinner on Aug. 13, and the second-annual Signing Bird Chautauqua festival Sept. 10-11.

"Rivers, streams and lakes are essential to the histories and identities of many Illinois communities," Illinois Humanities coordinator Matt Meacham said in a news release. "Additionally, water frequently serves as a vital symbol in our literature, visual art, folklore and religious life."

FRANKLIN CREEK SUMMER SCHEDULE

Water/Ways Smithsonian exhibit

Grist Mill, 1893 Twist Road, Franklin Grove

11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday, May 28 to July 9

Closer to the Creek Nature Day

June 11

10:30 a.m. to noon, youth workshop exploring the creek

1 to 3:30 p.m., river watch science program collecting water samples

Evening at the Mill

Aug. 13

Dinner and program, $25

RSVP by Aug. 6

Signing Bird Chautauqua

Sept. 10-11

Second annual festival of art, music, programs and food

Find Franklin Creek Grist Mill on Facebook, go to www.franklincreekgristmill.com or call 815-456-2718 for more information.

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