Updated: Feb 24, 2020
The Coimbra Museum of Water is very small, with little tangible materiality beyond the ancient jars and bottles, and of course the modern bottles, screens and posters, but it does a good job. The only other Museum of Water I know (although I know of the one in Lisbon), which does a very different job. I know Amy Sharrocks’ Museum of Water through Amy herself, through swimming the Thames. Amy is a Force for Water and loves swimming. I met her in the water, and was blown away by her works and ideas. She has walked across London with people in their togs, filled an indoor pool with large floats and people floating on them (both art works), has planned an art-swim across the Thames at Tower Bridge. She was offered the entire basement of Somerset House, London, for an installation of her Museum of Water, and series of lunchtime presentations, I was honoured and quick to accept an invitation to give one of these. On ‘Evolution and Water’, the presentation can be heard as podcast. Amy Sharrocks' Museum of Water is about meaning and memory – people volunteer water that is significant to them, and add a brief few words about them. These are then displayed for the duration of the installation, in this case, across the many chambers of the cellar-like space below the court yard. I have a bottle in the Museum, of mundane Oxford tap water, in a use-once plastic bottle. I long rejected the claim of the use-once water-bottle corporations that the plastics leach something into the bottle to make them harmful for re-use – how can they get away with a claim for hazard in their products as a way of persuading people to buy more plastic bottles? They really can’t, it turns out – harm to the planet outweighs harm to the purchaser. I have another bottle on a shelf in my lounge room at home, of water from the lake at the West Oxfordshire Sailing Club – this one is clear, with a wafer-thin sediment of red clay at the bottom. Amy’s Museum of Water now has several branches, in Perth, Western Australia, where sister-in-law Brenda met and dined with her, and has shown in Rotterdam. Most recently, Amy’s work was on show at the Museum of London’s ‘Hidden Rivers of London’ exhibition. The work on show at the Museum of London was ‘Walbrook’, which was a live artwork in which Amy Sharrocks set out to ‘trace a memory of water’ through the City of London. She re-mapped the buried Walbrook by water divining, then engaged a stream of blue-clad volunteers joined by a ribbon, to walk the course of the river from Islington to the beach below Cannon Street Bridge. Did it draw attention – you bet. There are other Museums of Water, and one in particular that deserves special mention – the Ecomuseo Martesana in Milan, which extends the idea of a museum of water to a territory, an ecosystem, a living and working place. And which has the orinigal mitre lock, designed by Leonardo da Vinci.