Since 1900, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas dropped from 60 percent to 17 percent. Yet, Americans still rely on rural communities for the food and other resources that power the nation. The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) traveling exhibition “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” looks at that remarkable 20th-century societal change and how rural Americans responded.
A partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and state humanities councils, MoMS is traveling three copies of “Crossroads” on simultaneous yearlong tours of Florida, Illinois and South Carolina. The exhibition opens Sept. 8 at the Cedar Key Public Library in Cedar Key, Florida, the Chester Public Library in Chester, Illinois, and the Union County Carnegie Library in Union, South Carolina. “Crossroads” will travel to up to 165 small towns across 28 states throughout the next six years. The full tour itinerary can be viewed online at MuseumOnMainStreet.org.
Americans have relied on rural crossroads for generations. These places where people gather to exchange goods, services and culture and to engage in political and community discussions are an important part of the cultural fabric. Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by cultural and economic changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development.
Through a selection of photographs, objects, film, audio and interactives, “Crossroads” takes a broad look at the characteristics of rural America. It looks at how an attraction to and interaction with the land formed the basis of rural culture, and how rural communities and small towns evolve and change. It also highlights how change transformed rural America, especially during the 1900s, and how rural Americans are evolving for the future.
Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Crossroads” will serve as a community meeting place for conversations change in the community. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about their own history, the joys and challenges of living rural, how change has affected their community and prompt discussion of goals for the future.
Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. To learn more about “Crossroads” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit museumonmainstreet.org.
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.