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River Life Projects

Some of our most important work comes about through projects, whether initiated through working with others, or from our own direction. Through collaborations between campus and community partners, River Life produces innovative projects, programs, and research. Our work takes various forms including developing a public program or series where innovative perspectives and points of view are brought together, undertaking research projects, or generating new knowledge that advances thinking about how rivers and people might have sustainable, inclusive futures together.

Deindustrializing Twin Cities Waterways

The Twin Cities is known as a region defined by its lakes, creeks, and the Mississippi River. The past half century has seen a transformation of these landscapes, as the industrial and transportation uses of these waters have become obsolete. The storymap linked below shows how this transformation has happened at several specific places in the region.

Visit Deindustrializing Twin Cities Waterways here.

We are Water MN

River Life, in collaboration with a number of campus and community partners, hosted the We Are Water MN traveling exhibit on campus between October 12-November 26, 2018. The exhibit is travelling to multiple host sites in Minnesota throughout 2019, visit the Minnesota Humanities Center for more information on visiting the exhibit.

We Are Water MN explores the connections between the humanities and water through an exhibit, public events and educator resources. Visitors reflect on local stories and the meaning and experiences of water in Minnesota with space to add their own stories. By creating relationships around water, we are creating networks that can promote positive social norms, and share a vision for and participate in water stewardship.

See Video of Some of Our We Are Water MN Events

See video from "The River at our Doorstep."
See video from "Living With Water: Learning With and From Community."

Relationships and Responsibilities

We Are Water MN is a partnership formed to tell Minnesota’s water stories collaboratively, bringing together personal narratives, historical materials, and scientific information. Combining these ways of knowing water strengthens Minnesotans’ relationships with and responsibilities to water. The We Are Water MN partners are the Minnesota Humanities Center, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

John E. Sawyer Seminar : “Making the Mississippi: Formulating new water narratives for the 21st century and beyond.” (2014-15)

In 2014-15, River Life helped lead the John E. Sawyer Seminar “Making the Mississippi: Formulating New Water Narratives in an Era of Climate Change,” which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Faculty, University staff, students, and community partners gathered regularly to share insights from common readings in environmental history, theory, and literature, as well as readings about the Mississippi River.  The seminar culminated in a multiday symposium exploring diverse narratives and practices for reconsidering human relationships with the Mississippi.

Living with the Mississippi 

Living with the Mississippi was a blog series River Life ran in 2014-15 that examines the history of the river flats communities in the Twin Cities and what it means to almost literally live on the Mississippi River. Explore this series to learn more about life on the Mississippi prior to luxury condos and clean river water, before the riverfront was considered a desirable place to live.

Mississippi River Gorge Restoration Study:  Synthesis of past work and feasibility assessment of restoration actions, by Chris Lenhart (2012)

“The Twin Cities reach of the Mississippi River has historically been dominated by commercial navigation and hydropower. Yet with increasing recreational usage and evolving economic priorities in the Twin Cities there is growing interest in recreational, aesthetic and ecological uses of the river, particularly within the area known as the Gorge (between St. Anthony Falls and Ford Dam). The City of Minneapolis’ 'Above the Falls Master Plan' proposed closing the upper harbor to barge traffic, creating opportunity for restoration of ecological, historic, aesthetic and recreational features. The University of Minnesota working with government agency and non profit partners: the National Park Service, Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Great River Greening, the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, conducted an assessment of existing restoration and management work and a preliminary investigation into the feasibility of restoration and management actions.”

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