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 (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.
Acknowledging the multiple layers which make up the on-going relationships between urban residents and their waterways and the diversity of experiences, efforts, and best practices needed to fully explore these connections, Urban Waterways seeks to provide a platform for a multitude of stakeholders.
Urban Waterways recognizes and is committed to honoring and amplifying the leadership, advocacy, and ability of community-led efforts to effect positive changes pertaining to the health of their cities and natural resources.
Urban Waterways is committed to a broadening of the historical record and the acknowledgement of the importance of the actions of individuals in the shaping of their communities’ histories.
Urban Waterways seeks to engage all interested stakeholders in activities aimed at the restoration of and re-engagement with their waterways and their communities.
The Anacostia River Photo Database was created by conservation photographer Krista Schlyer to assist Anacostia River restoration advocates in their work. The photo collection consists of 200 images of the Anacostia River watershed depicting a range of watershed themes. Images of stormwater pollution, stormwater solutions, ecology, biodiversity, recreation, river landscapes, history, community involvement, and more are now available to those working to restore the health of the Anacostia River.Learn More
River of Resilience: A Journey from Headwaters to Confluence on the Anacostia River, River of Resilience is a nine-chapter web story structured as a journey from the headwaters of the Anacostia in Sandy Spring, Maryland, to the confluence of the river with the Potomac in Washington DC. This project offers a visually-rich geographic narrative of a wounded but irrepressible watershed, a story of those who are working to heal this river community, and an entreaty to join them. The project features the writing and photography of Krista Schlyer, a senior fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers, and author of the book River of Redemption: Almanac of Life on the Anacostia, due out fall 2018 from Texas A&M University Press.Learn More