Voices from the Waterways

Voices from the Waterways LogoWe humans have a complex relationship with our waterways. They have long been central to community planning and the political, economic, and socio-cultural debates that it entails. Our freshwater systems serve a variety of functions. They act as transportation networks, irrigation systems, spaces for recreation and tourism, and power sources. They are a valuable resource, crucial to agriculture and industry alike. Unfortunately, our use of waterways — pollution, damming, and overconsumption — can have also have catastrophic consequences for flora and fauna. Human interaction with and transformation of water systems can lead to flooding, the influx of exotic species, and a host of other unintended consequences. Waterways are a powerful framework for examining humans, their societies, and their environments.

Voices from the Waterways (VfW) is a born-digital oral history database devoted to capturing the relationship between people and the waterways so central to their communities. Voices from the Waterways captures the attitudes, local knowledge, cultural assumptions, and the unwritten structures that govern individuals and societies — specifically as they relate to water. This is especially important at this historical moment when waterways are coming under increasing pressure from direct human use and the indirect consequences of long term anthropogenic effects on the planet.

The Voices from the Waterways Project serves as

  • a historical archive that captures the experience of environmental change during a key moment in the Anthropocene
  • a tool to allow individuals and communities to express their thoughts and experiences as they pertain to the nexus of society and environment
  • a dataset to help researchers, policy makers, activists, artists, and communities interpret, plan, and create

This project is affiliated with the IU Grand Challenges: Prepared for Environmental Change and the Memory, Place and Community in Global Water Systems Working Group of the Sustainable Water Future Programme of Future Earth.

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