Urban Waterways is a research and educational initiative which seeks to better understand the ongoing relationships between urban communities and their waterways. The project stemmed from a desire to fully explore Washington, D.C.’s ongoing relationship with the Anacostia River. How does a river become invisible? How does it fade from the public’s consciousness? What does that invisibility mean for the people living along its banks?
We have sought to explore such questions with the understanding that the impacts of waterways extend far beyond their banks. Communities and waterways share not only space, both physical and emotional, but histories, presents and futures. Such a dynamic connection can only be explored from a multitude of perspectives which include questions of justice, class, race, politics, health, development, faith, history, and the arts.
Recognizing the local is a reflection of national and international trends, the project has brought together a network comprised of communities and organizations in Washington, D.C., O’ahu (HI), Los Angeles (CA), Louisville (KY), the Gulf Coast, Spartanburg (SC), Baltimore (MD), Pittsburgh (PA), and London (UK).
The group includes activists, scholars, developers, faith leaders, government officials, community leaders, youth, and residents who have shared their best practices for advocating for the health of their waterways and communities, navigating their sometimes complex personal connections to the natural world, and positioning themselves to be active participants in helping to shape the futures of their cities.
With more than 60% of the world’s population expected to live in urban cities by 2025, the consideration of issues such as pollution, loss of flora and fauna, and resource depletion on urban communities, as well as the interplay of environmental and social conditions, is critical. As residents contend with the impacts of the transformation of their communities on multiple levels, such issues require creative and inclusive advocacy, as stakeholders strive to establish and maintain healthy, equitable communities.
Gail S. Lowe, PhD
Gail S. Lowe, PhD (1950-2015), served as Senior Historian at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, conducting research for museum projects, exhibitions, and publications, and consulting with the collections department on the museum’s archives. Dr. Lowe also curated exhibitions and served as the museum’s publications editor. She was curator for the exhibition Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement and the historian and project manager for the Urban Waterways initiative.
A native Washingtonian, Dr. Lowe held a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University/Radcliffe College, a master’s from Yale University, a master’s in library science from The Catholic University of America, and a PhD in American Civilization from The George Washington University.
Katrina Lashley serves as the project’s Program Coordinator. Additionally, she has worked with Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program to document water-based initiatives and programming at the Smithsonian and highlight the efforts of communities in the MoMS network to engage their residents in issues pertaining to their local waterways.
Ms. Lashley received her B.A. in English Literature and Italian Language at Rutgers University. In 2011, she completed a Master’s in History at American University with a focus on the British Caribbean. In addition to her Public History work, she was a teacher of English Literature and Language for twelve years.