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H2O = Life - Temporary Exhibition

  This is a past exhibition.

Exhibition Dates:

8 March to
29 September 2011


Hall B


Typical time required:

30 - 60 minutes

Water is a precious resource to all living things. It shapes our planet and nearly every aspect of our lives. It sustains cultures and inspires artists. Yet, fresh water makes up only 3 percent of Earth’s water – and much of that is locked in ice caps, sea ice, and glaciers, or deep underground. The tiny fraction readily available to humans is not evenly distributed around the world. This creates conflicting demands for this limited, vital resource, both among people and between humans and other life on Earth.

In the H2O = Life exhibition, a range of artifacts highlight diverse cultural and spiritual aspects of water; including the role water has played in the rise of civilizations around the world. Throughout the exhibition visitors will experience the amazing power of water. Discovering the different states of water, exploring a re-creation of a floating Cambodian fishing village, and getting hands-on with the different rock textures caused by water will engage children and adults alike. A dozen interactive exhibits allow you to heft the weight of an African water jar or spin a merry-go-round that pumps water.

Highlights of the exhibition include:


Life in Water

All life on Earth needs water to survive, but the amount and quality available from place to place varies widely. In this section, visitors are introduced to some of the incredible adaptations that plants and animals have evolved over the ages to cope with water scarcity or abundance, to extremes of temperature, or to life in fresh or salt water. Human life, too, is emphasized, with exhibits that describe our own body-water content and daily water needs.

Blue Planet

Water is a remarkable substance that has the power to shape the face of our planet. This section focuses on some of the extraordinary physical and chemical properties of the water molecule and its importance as a climate driver, not to mention our planet’s greatest landscape architect.

Visitors can also examine the three physical states of water (ice, liquid, and vapor) at room temperature in an exhibit that takes advantage of just one of the many surprising qualities of water that make it a singular part of life on our blue planet.



Water Works

Throughout history, water has helped civilizations grow and flourish. This section focuses on how people use fresh water, competitive demands on the limited supply, its role in almost everything we produce and consume, and the environmental consequences of our water use.

The exhibits follow the history of irrigation and damming – from a still-functioning 2,200-year-old dam to the massive Three Gorges Dam – as well as the widespread environmental impact caused by putting water to work for us where more than 60 percent of the world’s largest rivers have been dammed or diverted.


Water Everywhere

Many people, plants, and animals have had to adapt to an abundance of water and have done so in innovative ways.

This section explores some of the wettest and iciest places in the world, how species (including humans) manage to survive in these unique ecosystems, and how climate change is affecting them.

It also features an expansive diorama that re-creates life on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, a freshwater lake on a tributary of the Mekong River that is home to a remarkably diverse ecosystem as well as a rich human culture where life is governed by the seasonal pulse of monsoon floods.



Not a Drop

More than a billion people around the world live without reliable access to safe drinking water, and even more without adequate sanitation.

This section presents stories from some of the most water-poor places on Earth and offers insight into the amazing ways that people and ecosystems are both shaped by and adapt to a lack of water. 

Healthy Water

Clean water and good health go hand-in-hand. This section explores where our drinking water comes from, what is involved in making sure it is safe, and why clean water is so important to our well-being.

A video microscope allows you to examine a few of the many microorganisms that can inhabit a single drop of water. You can also view a three-dimensional video illustrating the impact of human populations on groundwater supplies in Tucson, Arizona.