Accumulated over two years from different sites worldwide, Museum of Water is a collection of publicly donated water and accompanying stories brought together by live artist, sculptor and film-maker Amy Sharrocks. The live artwork invites people to browse and interact with the Museums collection in the atmospheric depths of Somerset House
as custodians guide visitors through the bottles, stories and soundscapes from donors throughout the underground spaces. The collection of several hundred bottles includes water from a holy river in India, 20-year-old evaporated snow from Maine, condensation from a Falmouth window, two different breaths and water from a bedside table said to be infused with dreams. Running alongside Museum of Water will be a series of events, installations, talks and screenings, from poetry readings to film screenings and science workshops. The events, curated by Somerset House and the Cultural Institute at Kings College London, run across Somerset House and Kings.
Events include an In Conversation with Amy Sharrocks; a talk with Sir Peter Bazalgette on 23 June, great-great-grandson of Victorian civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette, about his ancestors achievements; and saliva testing from Professor Stanley Ulijaszek who will test willing volunteers after theyve eaten their lunch on 17 June. For children there will be screenings of watery family favourites, including Swallows and Amazons and Finding Nemo, and a number of free family workshops, such as 3-D modelling sea creatures on 7 June and writing water themed poetry on 21 June.
For the duration of Museum of Water the Roman Baths, now under the care of the National Trust and usually only open by special arrangement, will be open to the public. The Roman Baths are located on Strand Lane, a private, perfectly preserved Georgian street next to Somerset House and Kings. The baths have a historical reputation of being Roman in origin, however, it was recently discovered that the visible remains date from a 17th century refurbishment.
On 21 June Midsummer Water Day will feature a full afternoon of drop-in activity for all ages from a range of artists and academics from 12 - 6pm. Across a range of spaces in both Somerset House and Kings, it will provide the opportunity to visit Museum of Water then speak to artists and academics whose work is inspired by water, with talks on everything from the politics of water to the ecology of the Thames riverbed. There will be a strong literary element to the day with British poet Tom Chivers presenting a performance poetry programme and an exclusive poem written by acclaimed British poet Alice Oswald given to the first 100 people willing to drink samples of water from her Dartmoor stream. As part of the talks programme Professor Clare Lees and Dr. Gillian Overton will reflect on the earliest water stories of women and sea-beasts in Women of the Deep: The Earliest English Winter Tales .
Somerset House has a rich relationship with water dating back to the 16th century. A strategic site onto the Thames thoroughfare, Somerset House was built with a front door onto the river. Originally a grand riverside palace, it was later occupied by the Navy Board in the 18th and 19th centuries. Boats would enter through the buildings Great Arch and the Navy Commissioners ornate gilded barge was stored on site to set sail to Whitehall.