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Report Reflects Impact of 2022-23 Smithsonian Tour

Photo of a crowd at a Museum on Main Street event.
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“Crossroads” exhibit attracts new visitors, volunteers, and partners.

A new report from Mass Humanities details the experiences of residents in six rural towns that hosted the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit in 2022-23. More than 23,000 people attended free public events during the tour of “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is a Smithsonian outreach program that engages small town audiences and brings revitalized attention to underserved rural communities. The Smithsonian 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. The 2022-23 tour marked the first time that Mass Humanities partnered with the Smithsonian.

“This report captures the spirit and hard work that we witnessed over the last year in these small towns,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “Librarians, town officials, museum directors, volunteers, and sponsors worked together to build capacity for local institutions and spark conversations about their histories and their shared future.”

“Crossroads” launched in Essex in September 2022, moving on to Hull, Rutland, Turners Falls, and Sheffield before closing in Athol in June 2023. Prior to the start of the tour, Mass Humanities and the Smithsonian engaged staff from all six host institutions in workshops that included trainings on exhibit content, publicity, and conversation facilitation. Mass Humanities provided $10,000 grants to each partner site to prepare for the tour and produce at least six public events. Each partner will receive a second Mass Humanities grant to sustain the programs and partnerships begun during the tour.

The new report includes an introduction by Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission, which helped select the host communities and co-hosted four legislative receptions with Mass Humanities. An essay by tour scholar Dr. Leo Hwang explores the unique relationships and landscapes of rural Massachusetts. Former Mass Humanities Program Officer Jen Atwood coordinated the 2022-23 tour and created the report.

Highlights from the report:

130 – Number of free public events hosted during the tour

57% – Percentage of 23,000 event attendees who visited the host library or museum for the first time

2,000 – Number of students who viewed the exhibition, including home school groups and field trips

67 – Organizations that partnered to support the host sites

405 – Volunteers engaged with events and tour, including 69% who volunteered for the first time

The MoMs host partners convened community conversations on a range of local issues, including access to health care, changes in farming, development and conservation, and changing demographics. Mass Humanities plans to distribute the report to state and local officials to inform policymakers of the challenges facing residents in rural Massachusetts.

Mass Humanities thanks our partners at Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum; The Hull Lifesaving Museum; Rutland Free Public Library; Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls; Bushnell-Sage Library, Sheffield; and Athol Public Library. We are grateful for the support of sponsors including the National Endowment for the Humanities, Big Y, New England Biolabs Foundation, Essex County Community Foundation, Greenfield Savings Bank.

A new Museum on Main Street tour will reach the state in 2025. Mass Humanities will announce a call for applications in spring 2024.

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