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Independence Seaport Museum wants you to love the Delaware River

Washington Avenue Green on the Delaware River. December 19, 2017 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose
If you live all the way out in, say, West Philly, why should you think about the Delaware River — something you don’t interact with at all on a daily basis? And what exactly is a watershed?

These are the kinds of questions that the Independence Seaport Museum wants to answer with its upcoming River Alive! exhibition, a project that recently received a $2.6 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to “focus on the Delaware River and its watershed as a living, ever-changing system whose health and sustainability is vital to our lives,” according to a statement.

William Penn Foundation announced in 2014 that it would dedicate $35 million in grants to help fund any initiatives looking to help protect the Delaware River Watershed. The River Alive! exhibit fits the bill and aims to encourage the public to think about how the major body of water is important for everyone in the region.

The Independence Seaport Museum plans to accomplish this by having interactive and hands-on elements, as well as a “Citizen Science Lab and Fisharium,” to help educate people on what makes the river a living space for not only local residents but the many animals and organisms that help to provide drinking water to 15 million people and economic benefits for the region, said John Brady, president and CEO of the Independence Seaport Museum.

A mock-up of the upcoming River Alive! exhibition from Independence Seaport Museum. (Courtesy photo)

A mock-up of the upcoming River Alive! exhibit. (Courtesy image)

Brady said the idea for an exhibit of this nature formed three years ago when he and his team started to think about the need to highlight the river itself, “not just what is on and around it.”

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And while the focus may be on the Delaware River and its watershed in its entirety, the hope is that people will take what they learn at the exhibit and make the effort to care for their local parts of the watershed.

Not to mention the need to set the record straight when it comes to the assumption that the Delaware River is only about industrial use and pollution, Brady said.

“Those perceptions are outdated, and we want to address them,” he said. “This exhibit is needed because it takes the understanding and learning of the river to the next step. We encourage visitors to get on the river and use the exhibit to enhance their experience — see fish and birds and have an awareness and understanding of what is happening.”

The $2.6 million grant from the William Penn Foundation is helping fund 75 percent of the exhibition and Brady said the museum now actively looking for other sources of private funding to help finance the rest of the project, which is set to open November 2018.

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