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About the exhibition

Water: H20=Life is an ode to the beauty and wonder of water, and a penetrating look at the way humans have used water for thousands of years.

This international exhibition, showing exclusively in Australia at the National Museum in Canberra, analyses the natural and cultural sides of the fluid that underpins life on earth. It offers a global perspective on water and Australia's water story.

A man and woman shown in silhouette, standing in front of a blue rippled screen, with the words 'NEPO', 'SU', 'AGUA', 'EAU', 'WATER' and other partially visible text in white.
The word 'water' in different languages is projected on a fog screen at the exhibition's entry. Photo: D. Finnin/American Museum of Natural History.

A valuable global resource

Using imaginative presentations, multimedia, live animals, soundscapes, objects and dioramas, the Water exhibition aims to make people more aware of water's key role on the planet and of the need for it to be valued highly rather than taken for granted.

Visitors to the exhibition will:

  • explore how life has adapted to some of the wettest, driest and iciest places on earth
  • investigate the extraordinary physical and chemical properties of water
  • analyse how people have used water throughout history
  • discover some of the many innovative technologies being used to give people access to much-needed water supplies
  • be challenged to reconsider the way they view water.
An arm extends into a stream of water coming from a block of ice, mounted on a circular plinth. Below the ice block, water spirals around the top of another plinth, which flows into a third plinth where a whitish vapour rises from the centre.
Visitors can experience the three states of water — vapour, liquid and ice — in the exhibition's water-cycle sculpture. Photo: D. Finnin/American Museum of Natural History.

Water: H20=Life was created by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, assisted by the Science Museum of Minnesota, St Paul. It was curated by the American Museum of Natural History's Dr Eleanor Sterling.

The exhibition is travelling the world to various international partners and completed its Istanbul show before coming to Australia. As the exhibition travels to each international location, a module telling the local water story is added.

Australia's water story

The National Museum of Australia is the sole Australian venue for Water: H20=Life. The Museum's local exhibition component, 'Australia's water story', examines:

  • animal, bird and plant adaptation on the world's driest inhabited continent
  • how Indigenous people have related to water
  • the development of water resources in Australia
  • water as one of the biggest issues now confronting Australians.
Two young boys standing alongside a wetland, with rushes, grass, water and a duck forming a backdrop, extend their arms to look into small bottles of water.
The National Museum of Australia is also presenting an exciting series of programs for families and adults as part of the Water exhibition. Photo: Benita Tunks.

Related links

Listen to Matthew Higgins, senior curator National Museum of Australia, talking about the Water exhibition on:

Water: H2O=Life is organised by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (, and the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul (, in collaboration with the National Museum of Australia, Canberra; Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland; The Field Museum, Chicago; Instituto Sangari, São Paulo, Brazil; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada; San Diego Natural History Museum; and Science Centre Singapore with PUB Singapore.

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