The Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit is at its temporary home at Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, and it is open to the public!
The exhibit features the cultural, environmental, and historical influence of water of the Louisiana Cajun waterways. The exhibit will be open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from June 3rd-June 30th. Along with Cajun Music and activities, it is the perfect way to dive into the Louisiana culture. The center is located at 314 St. Mary Street in Thibodaux.
The exhibit was introduced to the public with a reception Thursday night featuring Cajun Music presented by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary, delicious food prepared by Chef Randy Cheramie with the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, and a program with various guest speakers.
The exhibit features a variety of interactive and educational activities that showcase the huge impact Louisiana waterways have on the Cajun way of life. Viewers can learn various components such as the amount of energy water can produce, recreational activities, the impact waterways have on the workforce, and more. As residents, we understand the everyday life of being surrounded by waterways, the exhibit is a great educational opportunity for us to really understand how water is our lifeline.
Some other partners in the exhibit that have made it possible are the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Friends of Bayou Lafourche, Coastal Wetlands Planning, and Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). Superintendent Chuck Hunt with Jean Lafitte National Historical
Park and Preserve said the exhibit “helps people explore and appreciate the role that water has played and how it’s a component of our lives that shapes our culture, history and our landscape.” He also invites the public to check out another exhibit in the center that offers visitors the opportunity to connect with the food, the music, the language and traditions, all along the Louisiana Cajun Coast.
Colonel Stephen Murphy, Commander & District Engineer New Orleans District, also spoke about how important our waterways are. He said, “The waters are at the very heart of the economy. There is recreation here and unique culture which is our way of life.” He went on to point out that South Louisiana is the nation’s first and third busiest waterways, the Mississippi River and the Intercoastal waterway, which are the lifelines to the national economy.
Betsy Barnes, Press Secretary and Director of Public Affairs for Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser’s office, expressed gratitude for everyone who made the exhibit possible and, ”to the Smithsonian, to come into this community and draw people from all over the state and hopefully all over the nation to come enjoy what it is that we know is so valuable here in Thibodaux. And in the rural coastal communities throughout Louisiana, we knew that we have the best food. We have the best seafood. We know we have the best way of life. We know that people want to come and see it. They want to experience it, and they want it to be a part of their life, their history, and their memories. In 2019, 53.2 million people came to Louisiana. And so the Lieutenant asked me to express to you the importance and the connection with water tourism and our seafood industry today.”
Thibodaux Mayor Tommy Eschete also spoke about the importance of water. He shared his personal experiences of recreation, fishing, and memories. “I remember when I was a kid, we would go get a hamburger from Burger Chef and then go down to the bayou to fish.” He went on to explain the importance of Bayou Lafourche and the fact it provides a potable water supply and allows recreational opportunities. “Not only here in Thibodaux, but in Lafourche, Terrebonne, Assumption, and maybe even more. It’s so, so important to us here in Thibodaux and the Bayou Region.”
Mayor Eschete introduced Ben Malbrough, the Executive Director of Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District. Malbrough began by being appreciative of the exhibit being hosted at the Wetlands Center. “Bayou Lafourche is such a critical waterway to this entire region. It’s where we work, where we live, it’s where we play. When you look at Port Fourchon, 18 to 20% of the nation’s oil supply is serviced out of that, that’s on Bayou Lafourche. You look at some of the other large industries, like shipbuilding. It’s critical to the industry here. It’s obviously incredibly important for all of our livelihoods. As mayor Eschete said over 300,000 people get their drinking water sources, the only potable water source for over 300,000 people in this region. That’s extremely critical. People of Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, Terrebonne. Even some residents in St. Martin Parish get their water from Bayou Lafourche. That’s obviously critically important.” Malbrough said.
The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center is located at 314 St. Mary Street in Thibodaux and is open Thursday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. For more information, contact the center at (985) 448-1375, or visit https://www.nps.gov/jela/wetlands-acadian-cultural-center.htm.