Crossroads: Change in Rural America
About the Exhibition
In 1900, about 40% of Americans lived in rural areas, By 2010, less than 18% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. In just over a century, massive economic and social changes led to massive growth of America’s urban areas. Yet, less than 10% of the U.S. landmass is considered urban.
Many Americans assume that rural communities are endangered and hanging on by a thread—suffering from outmigration, ailing schools, and overused land. But that perception is far from true in many areas. Many rural Americans work hard to sustain their communities. Why should revitalizing the rural places left behind matter to those who remain, those who left, and those who will come in the future? All Americans benefit from rural America’s successes. We can learn great things from listening to those stories. There is much more to the story of rural America!
Crossroads: Change in Rural America offers towns a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition will prompt discussions about what happened when America’s rural population became a minority of the country’s population and the ripple effects that occurred.
Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by these changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development. Economic innovation and a focus on the cultural facets that make small towns unique, comfortable, and desirable have helped many communities create their own renaissance. The future is bright for much of rural America as small towns embrace the notion that their citizens and their cultural uniqueness are important assets.
- About the Opportunity
Museum on Main Street brings high-quality Smithsonian traveling exhibitions to Main Street museums, historical societies, and other small-town cultural venues across the country. These exhibits boost civic pride, as residents young and old, from diverse backgrounds come together to share and celebrate their heritage. Host venues are selected through a competitive application and awarded to communities as a cohort that will work and train together over the next year, leading up to opening day at the first venue.
Hopeful. Participatory. Community-building.
Through a year-long engagement before the Smithsonian exhibition arrives, five Maryland communities will explore their story of rural change in through the lens of the five organizing themes of Crossroads: identity, land, community, persistence and managing change. Host venues will collaborate across sectors, and create companion exhibits, develop programs, events, or storytelling projects, alongside a team of museum consultants, partners, and local scholars.
- EligibilityEligible applicants will:
- Either be located in a community with a population below 20,000 or the have ability to demonstrate limited access to nationally recognized exhibitions
- a minimum of 700 square feet of display space for the Smithsonian exhibition
- a ceiling height of at least 9 feet
- functional electrical outlets in the display space
- enclosed shipping crate storage of 220 square feet
- minimum standards of security during the exhibition’s stay
- Have convenient hours that are open to the public
- Tell a unique local story that ties in with the theme of Crossroads that will be the basis for a locally produced companion exhibition
- Demonstrate ideas for strong public humanities programming
- Develop partnerships among organizations in the community or region
- ResponsibilitiesSites selected to host the Crossroads exhibition will:
- Assign two project coordinators for the exhibition who will attend planning meetings and work together coordinate the project from beginning to end
- Implement publicity in your local community and region in cooperation with Maryland Humanities
- Produce a local companion exhibition and host public humanities programs
- Host a grand opening/ribbon cutting and invite public officials, media, legislators, congressional representatives, and others
- Provide a cost share report at the project’s conclusion tracking all staff and volunteer time, facility expenses, and other donated resources
- Provide a secure, dry space to store empty exhibition crates for the duration of the exhibition.
- Engage in cooperative publicity
- Contribute hard work and some out-of-pocket expenses
- Exhibition Tour Schedule
When will Crossroads be in Maryland?
- The exhibition will tour Maryland from August 2022 to June 2023.
- Mark your top three choices for exhibition dates. If your host site is selected, Maryland Humanities will use this information to create the final exhibit tour schedule. Maryland Humanities staff will strive to match host sites with their preferred dates. However, we cannot guarantee organizations will be assigned their top choices.
August 27, 2022 – October 14, 2022
October 29, 2022 – December 16, 2022
January 7, 2023 – February 17, 2023
March 4, 2023 – April 14, 2023
April 29, 2023 – June 9, 2023
- Exhibition ContentThe exhibition will explore historic events and pose questions for today in the following content areas:
Identity: Rural America is at the heart of our national identity. Those who came to America saw boundless plains ready for cultivation. Indigenous people saw their landscapes differently.
Land: Rural Americans build their homes, farms, businesses, communities, and sense of worth on land. Land is a finite resource and requires significant investment. Americans link the reality of ownership with the ideal of independence. They yearn for their own piece of land, which confirms their personal autonomy and symbolizes their political influence and contribution to the local economy. Many develop a strong sense of place, an emotional, almost spiritual, connection between physical locations and their personal identity.
Community: Rural life revolves around crossroads communities–towns, villages, and rural hamlets. These communities are powerful, dynamic places where people connect–exchange ideas, work towards common goals, rely on neighbors, and build a future.
Persistence: Rural Americans believe in their communities. They struggle to resolve issues rather than abandoning the places where they live. Change affects farm-dependent and open-country places differently than hardscrabble mountain tops or suburban and exurban counties at the edge of metropolitan areas. No solution works everywhere. People at the crossroads develop strategies that work for them. Rural people understand the unique challenges they face, and the importance of trying to solve them.
Managing Change: People have strong but often differing opinions about important issues relating to rural America and its small-towns. In the twenty-first century, all Americans, including those in suburban and urban areas, will play an important role in shaping the future of rural America.
Please note that Maryland Humanities will move forward with Crossroads: Change in Rural America as funding allows. The Museum on Main Street host venue application process is competitive. No organization is guaranteed to be selected as a host venue.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America traveling exhibition may be used for educational purposes only. The exhibition may not be used toward commercial or political ends.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America has been made possible in the state by Maryland Humanities.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America is part of the Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.