Mass Humanities is looking for host communities for a traveling national exhibition

Posted: 08/22/2021 12:03:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Wanted: Six Small Communities to host a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, an exhibit that examines changes in rural America over the past century.

The goal, according to Mass Humanities, the Northampton-based nonprofit group, is both to deliver a program from the country’s largest museum to some of Massachusetts’ smaller towns and to help some of those same places to consider ways to stay vital.

Through its partnership with the Smithsonian, Mass Humanities is initiating an application process to bring the Smithsonian’s “Crossroads: Changes in Rural America” to museums, libraries or other cultural centers across the Commonwealth of Nations. Mass Humanities is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and produces a wide range of programs – in history, literature, the arts, and other disciplines – throughout Massachusetts.

In order to host the Smithsonian Exhibit, host organizations must be located in a city of 12,000 people or less; they will also be asked about their ability to partner with other groups in their communities to create additional programs.

Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities, said the application process opens on August 30 and the six selected communities will be announced in early November.

The traveling exhibit, part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, includes several exhibit booths with photos, text and other displays; video and audio content; interactive computers; and other material. It is expected to arrive in Massachusetts in September 2022.

Boyles said his organization’s goal is to make the exhibit available in communities across the state, including the Valley – and given the rural history and flavor of this area, “I think that it is likely that we will see it here in this region, ”he noted.

“Crossroads” offers a broad examination of how small American towns have changed since 1900, when about 60% of the population lived in rural areas, up from about 17% today, even when only a small percentage of the population. American landscape is today considered urban.

“It’s basically about where we were and how today’s small communities can still be sustained, how they can use their experiences to remain good places to live and work,” Boyles said.

Host organizations selected in Massachusetts for “Crossroads” will receive training from Smithsonian staff on how to set up and present the exhibit. Mass Humanities will also provide each host with a grant of $ 10,000 to mount the exhibit, generate publicity and create additional public programming during the six weeks it will be presented in each community.

For example, because the profile of Rural America in the exhibit is broad, Boyles said Mass Humanities will work with host organizations and regional academics to develop complementary programs that examine local rural history and dynamics.

And he sees the exhibition as part of an ongoing relationship between his group and the small towns of the Commonwealth. “We want to be active in our rural communities,” he said.

For more information on how to be part of the traveling exhibit, visit

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]

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