This exhibition explores the pivotal role of water in the history, development, industry and culture of the Orange district.

Water sustains land, life and the spirit. It is both abundant and a precious, finite resource. The careful use and management of water and water places is now preoccupying communities, councils and governments. Exploring the water history of the district helps us to recognise the vital place of water in every facet of life in the community, past and present.

Watermarks draws together all kinds of water objects from pipes and plumbing to works of art. It explores water places, stories of people working with water today, and memories of how we worked and played with water in the past. This is not a comprehensive history but a work in progress, where we seek your memories and knowledge of water in all its forms to contribute to our understanding of the subject.

This is a collaborative exhibition developed by Orange City Council, Orange City Library and Orange Regional Gallery in partnership with community museums and history and heritage organisations in Orange, Millthorpe and Canowindra. A special feature of the exhibition is the way many areas of Orange City Council’s operations have worked together to produce a holistic understanding of their diverse work with water.

The exhibition shows the work of local artists and draws on all kinds of water-related objects from community museums and local families. Key themes include natural and environmental history, local water places, civic water supply, gardens, agriculture, domestic water use, mining, sport and recreation. It includes interviews with local people on their work and ideas about water. Orange City Council will continue to work with the community museums on the interpretation of their water-related collections.

The Watermarks project is part of the museum development strategy to raise awareness of significant local collections, change preconceptions about the work of museums and build a diverse range of stakeholders to support museum development in Orange.

Documenting significant objects and collaborating with community museums are important dimensions of the museum program. Watermarks will help develop partnerships with the Orange Regional Gallery and mining, sporting, cultural and environmental groups. It will also develop links with Lucknow and with Council’s new Environmental Learning Facility. When the exhibition closes, materials and graphics will be used in other Council venues and participating museums.

A web site and self-guided driving tour brochure will give this project a long life span for visitors and educational and cultural groups.

This project reflects policies and priorities currently being developed through work on Council’s cultural plan, particularly the way it links heritage places, museums, contemporary culture and tourism. This exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of the NSW Ministry for the Arts and Orange City Council.