Smithsonian exhibit opens in Decatur

Museum on Main Street exhibition, Water/Ways, opened Aug. 15 in Decatur, the city that settled on the banks of the Tennessee River.

While the national exhibit, made possible through a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution and Alabama Humanities Foundation with support from AAA Cooper Transportation, will demonstrate the impact water has had on our country and the world, a local exhibit will illustrate its effect on Decatur.

The Tennessee River has affected the lives of its residents in many ways, both positively and negatively. Early in Decatur history, the river was the main source of transportation. Before the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built dams to regulate its flow, the river routinely flooded large areas, and after the dams were constructed, the river provided electric power to the whole region.

Navigation through the dam and lock systems along the Tennessee and access to the Gulf of Mexico via the Tombigbee Waterway have directly contributed to Decatur’s flourishing industrial economy, which features manufacturing facilities for 12 Fortune 500 Companies.

But along with industrial growth have come water quality problems downriver. “I think this exhibit will resonate with all of the people who come to experience it,” said Kathryn Silvestri, exhibit coordinator, Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

Water/Ways will be in Decatur through Sept. 23 at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.