The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum located along the Chestnut Hill

The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum located along the Chestnut Hill
Reservoir once functioned as the High-Service Pumping Station
providing residents in and around Boston with clean drinking water.
After closing its doors in the mid 1970’s, the Metropolitan Waterworks
Museum reopened in 2011, offering visitors a unique opportunity to
learn about public health, architecture, engineering, and social history. In
particular, the Waterworks Museum provides a hands-on learning
experience about local water sanitation history, the science associated
with water sanitation, and the importance of water sanitation. It’s value
as an educational resource has been increasingly utilized by 6th grade
classes in Brighton and Brookline Public Schools, creating a need for
more age appropriate displays at the museum. Our work with the
Museum has been focused on creating a movable, interactive exhibit for
middle-school students that engages them to think about the importance
of the evolution of water sanitation and regulation.
Throughout the semester, our group worked closely with our mentor,
Lauren Kaufmann, and Museum staffers, Joseph Duggan and Matt
O’Rourke, to develop an exhibit that would effectively reach our target
audience. The two main decisions we had to make were: 1) Which kind of
exhibit format would best draw the attention of young visitors? 2) Which
topics would best cater to their overall educational experience?
To answer these questions we first examined the existing displays and
information at the Waterworks Museum. We then took the time to learn
about the various historical, scientific, and regulatory framework involved
in the water treatment process. To break down our research we decided to
individually focus on four topics, which were most in keeping with the
academic curriculum of a 6th grade class (see Fig. 2). From here, we
continued engaging in a brainstorming process concerning the diverse
possibilities for an effective exhibit display, weighing the pros and cons of
each (see Fig. 1).
Figure 1: Reasoning for choosing exhibit format (below)
Pros: Easy for students
to handle
Cons: Difficult to
•difficult to capture
complex ideas with
limited space
Pros: Actively engages
students in the
identification of
Cons: fragile equipment
is difficult to maneuver
•Equipment would
require supervision
Pros: Easy for students
to handle
•Complex ideas can be
explained using words
and figures
Cons: Difficult to
A strict study of Whipple’s
own experiments and water
testing techniques is pertinent
to understanding present
testing and sanitation methods
in Boston as well as the
national level.
To understand the importance
of the federal government in
water sanitation and indicate
how far regulation has evolved
over the last 100 years.
To establish a sense of
appreciation for the safe
drinking water that flows from
pumping stations to the faucet,
one must have an
understanding of the diverse
range of contaminants that
public water supplies are
vulnerable to.
To understand the process of
how water is cleaned as it
travels from a reservoir of
raw water to residential taps.
Establishes the steps used
presently in the water
treatment process which,
reveals the measures taken to
ensure clean drinking water.
Figure 2: Reasoning behind choice of research topics (above)
Figure 3: Four information slides that will be inserted on
final product
We found that the most effective display would be an interactive,
rotating wooden block similar to one found at Boston’s Museum
of Science. Such an exhibit could display the information of the
four different topics related to water treatment. Its manageable
size and weight would make it easy to manufacture and move
around the museum, while its few moving parts would eliminate
the need for adult supervision. These characteristics combined
with access to a volunteer willing to create the display for free
made this idea particularly appealing and feasible, outweighing the
benefits of our other options. The four areas of our research
allowed us to focus science and history from a national to a local
level, maximizing the educational use of this exhibit for schoolaged museum visitors. With our target audience in mind, we
concluded that the actual information in our display would be
presented in a 250-wrod summary written at a 6th grade reading
level. To guarantee accomplishment of this goal, we partook in a
revision process whereby we worked together with museum staff
to create a comprehensible final product (see Fig. 3).
Our final product was limited by a variety of factors including
a lack of funding, limited resources, and museum restrictions
on the scale and scope of the exhibit. Despite these
limitations, we hope that the topics we chose will provide an
understanding of water sanitation from past to present and
how it affects the local community. Through our display, we
hope that visitors will be able to appreciate how water
sanitation techniques have evolved since the time of George
Whipple to address the ever-evolving range of contaminants
that threaten the public water supplies.
Although our exhibit is yet to be produced, we have
given the Museum a digital copy of all of our
research. Going forward, this team should consult
with a carpenter to create the physical exhibit before
the school year starts and school tours commence.
Our hope is that the exhibit is displayed for each
school tour to best act as an educational resource and
further promote the museum’s mission.