Smithsonian Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Program Bringing Exhibitions to Rural America

August 21, 2019
News Release

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Black and white photo of tree at rural crossroads

A rural crossroads. FreeImages.com/Bettina Schwehn

Since 1994, the Smithsonian has collaborated with state humanities councils and other state partners to bring exhibitions and cultural resources to small towns across the country through Museum on Main Street (MoMS). The first town to host a MoMS exhibition—“Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Homefront, 1941-1945”—was Moreland, Georgia, with a population of 449. Moreland was the first of thousands of small, rural towns that have welcomed the Smithsonian program aimed at increasing awareness of local history. The Smithsonian celebrates the 25th anniversary of MoMS as it begins simultaneous, year-long state tours of the exhibition “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

“Crossroads” looks at the remarkable impact of economic and societal changes in the 20th century and the ways that rural Americans responded. The exhibition opens Aug. 23 at the Latah County Historical Society in Moscow, Idaho, and Aug. 24 at the Thomaston Mills Building in Thomaston, Georgia. Additional tours start Sept. 7 at the Aurora Public Library in Dillsboro, Indiana; the Old Mill Museum in Dundee, Michigan; and Postmark LaFollette, Inc. in LaFollette, Tennessee. “Crossroads” will travel to up to 165 small towns across 28 states throughout the next six years.

MoMS is also traveling “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” throughout Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, and “Water/Ways”—exploring water’s role in society and culture and the importance of protecting this critical resource—in Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma.

            “MoMS has been a catalyst for real change in more than 1,600 communities across all 50 states,” said Myriam Springuel, director of SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations. “This program has the power to bring communities together in unprecedented ways, and people from all walks of life get involved when the Smithsonian comes to town. This heartfelt community engagement not only inspires a deeper understanding of local history, but also a renewed sense of collective spirit.”

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, MoMS exhibitions serve as a community meeting place for conversations on a variety of topics from American food traditions and World War II posters to roots music and hometown sports. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils and other state partners, towns develop their own complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives that raise people’s understanding about their own history and prompt discussion of current issues affecting their community. 

MoMS encourages rural Americans to share their experiences about place, family and community through Stories from Main Street, its digital storytelling program.  These stories, gathered from hundreds of communities in more than 30 states, reflect the diversity of America’s contemporary voices. Since 2012, MoMS has brought digital technology and storytelling to 1,300 young people through Stories: YES. Supported by a Smithsonian Youth Access Grant, the program provides training and support to students to help them produce thought-provoking digital projects that interrogate local history as well as youth perspectives on living in small-town America.

For more information on all Museum on Main Street exhibitions, tour itineraries, and Stories from Main Street, go to museumonmainstreet.org. The U.S. Congress has provided support for MoMS.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit sites.si.edu.

 

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SI-336-2019