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Smithsonian Coming to Small Towns Around Massachusetts

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Museum on Main Street exhibit looks at change in rural America

The Smithsonian is coming to small towns in Massachusetts.

Through a partnership with the nation’s largest museum, Mass Humanities will select six local institutions to host “Crossroads: Changes in Rural America,” a traveling exhibit produced by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program.

Applications opened August 30 for museums, libraries, and other cultural centers interested in welcoming the Smithsonian to their communities. Organizations must be located in a town with a population of 12,000 or less to be eligible to host the exhibit. In October, Mass Humanities will select six sites for the “Crossroads” tour, which arrives in Massachusetts in September 2022.

“Crossroads” explores how rural American communities changed in the 20th century. From sea to shining sea, the vast majority of the United States landscape remains rural with only 3.5 percent of the landmass considered urban. Since 1900, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas dropped from 60 percent to 17 percent. The exhibition looks at that remarkable societal change and how rural Americans responded.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to partner with the Smithsonian for a Museum on Main Street tour,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “As our rural communities in Massachusetts face new challenges, this initiative offers local residents the opportunity to discuss the past, present and future of their hometowns.”

The host sites will receive trainings from the Smithsonian along with a $10,000 grant from Mass Humanities to host programs during the exhibit, which will be on display for six weeks in each community. Grant funds also support trainings, publicity, planning meetings and staff time. Host sites will be responsible for developing public programs to support the exhibit, including at least one community conversation held in partnership with another local organization.

The state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mass Humanities receives major support from Mass Cultural Council.

“The collective stories and history of Massachusetts’ rural towns are rich and colorful,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “And, as someone who lived and worked in the DC area for years, I know firsthand just how powerful and enlightening a visit to any of the Smithsonian Museums can be. This is a wonderful opportunity for rurally-focused cultural organizations to truly showcase the Power of Culture in their community, and I encourage all interested parties to apply.”

Launched in 1994, Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is a Smithsonian outreach program that engages small town audiences and brings revitalized attention to underserved rural communities.  The program partners with state humanities councils like Mass Humanities to bring traveling exhibitions, educational resources and programming to small towns across America through their own local museums, historical societies and other cultural venues.

For further information, residents are asked to contact Jen Atwood at [email protected].

About Mass Humanities 

Mass Humanities, a non-profit based in Northampton, conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life throughout Massachusetts. Since its founding in 1974, the organization has provided millions of dollars in support of thousands of humanities projects across the Commonwealth. Established as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Mass Humanities is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural

Council as well as private sources. For more information, visit www.masshumanities.org.

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