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The Smithsonian Comes to Rutland  

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Museum on Main Street “Crossroads: Changes in Rural America” traveling exhibit makes its next stop at the Rutland Free Public Library



The Town of Rutland is more than a crossroads. It is the geographic center of Massachusetts with a rich history dating back to the 1700s.

Rutland’s past and present-day way of life will take center stage as the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with Mass Humanities, rolls into the Rutland Free Public Library (RFPL) from Dec. 18 through Jan. 28.

Celebrating its tricentennial this year, Rutland has undergone many transformations over the past three centuries.  

The beautiful residential hill town in the geographic center of Massachusetts just 52 miles west of Boston, Rutland became known for its clean air throughout the 19th Century, and the town grew as a health resort center in the 1880s.

During the onslaught of tuberculosis, Rutland became famous for its health care industry and fresh air environment. This industry continued until December 23, 1991, when the last of the healthcare facilities closed its doors and is now a bedroom community with many of its residents commuting to Boston and Springfield daily.

“Like the unassuming maple tree that marks our town as the geographical center of Massachusetts, Rutland is humble, robust, and hospitable,” the RFPL Board of Trustees said in a statement. “It is a town with historical moments and notable landmarks. Supporting the community remains the central focus of Rutland. Farms, families, festivities, and being on the frontline in health causes, be it tuberculosis or the pandemic, unite our community. As we mark our tricentennial, we are excited to host the Smithsonian to showcase this quiet but impactful town.”


Director of the Rutland Free Public Library Kerry Remington

The library’s goal in hosting this exhibit, and complementing programs, includes bringing greater awareness to the rural beauty and culture of small-town life; bringing awareness to new residents of Rutland’s history within; leveraging attention to the town’s 300th-Anniversary celebration; increasing volunteerism within the community; and maintaining and continuing the strong partnerships between different civic organizations and business within the community.

The net effect will be a renewed sense of optimism and positive energy, which will build more excitement and interest in the library and its programs while inspiring visitors to the exhibition.

Throughout the exhibit, the “Crossroads” theme will connect Rutland’s land, people, identity, persistence, and change to evaluate the town’s past, present and future.  

Over the last several months, RFPL has worked with the Smithsonian, Mass Humanities and local partners to create additional exhibitions and programming that ties Rutland to the Crossroads theme. Some of the local sponsors and partners participating include The 300th Anniversary Committee; Rutland Historical Society; Rutland Historical Commission; Rutland Congregational Church; Saint Patrick’s Church; Rutland Senior Center; Jordan’s Farm; Local Schools in Wachusett Region and beyond; Rutland Boy Scouts; Rutland Department of Public Works; Rutland Treasure’s Office; Rutland Town Clerk; Finnish Society; and the Lion’s Club.

Mass Humanities’ partners for the statewide tour include National Endowment for the HumanitiesBig Y, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Over the past year, the RFPL received extensive training from the staff of Mass Humanities and the Smithsonian, along with a $10,000 grant from Mass Humanities to develop public events during the exhibit, which will be on display for six weeks.

“Museum on Main Street is an opportunity for a community to come together and explore its past, present and future,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “We’re honored to partner with Rutland residents and we look forward to learning from their conversations.”

Carol Harsh, director of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, added, “The Rutland Free Public Library has generated tremendous energy and immense pride as they’ve developed programs to showcase the unique and rich history of the community. We’re excited that people will soon be able to engage with stories of Rutland’s heritage, industry, and transformation.”   


Volunteers Install the Museum on Main Street Panels at the Rutland Free Public Library

This unique programming includes:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 1 pm: Book discussion on “The Pioneers” by David McCullough–A community read and discussion that will focus on themes of westward expansion and what Rutland’s role in it was–including reflections on Rutland’s own Rufus Putnam, who is known as “Father of the Northwest Territory.” This program is in partnership with local bookstore Root & Press, which will provide special pricing on the book for those who wish to purchase it.
  • Sunday, Jan. 1 at 1 pm: Finnish Life in RutlandA history of the Finnish community in Rutland presented by Finnish Heritage Society Sovittaja. This program will explain why so many Finnish families immigrated to Rutland and some of the cultural practices and traditions still celebrated today in Rutland.
  • Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1 pm: Farmer ForumA mediated conversation of local Rutland farmers, led by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Director John Lebeaux discussing farming sustainability in a small town. The farmers will discuss how farming has changed, what life is like for a farmer today and how Rutland farms are adapting for the future.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 1 pm: Healthcare through the ages in RutlandRutland has a history of medical facilities for Tuberculosis back to the late 1800, and early 1900’s to the recent pandemic when it hosted the 3rd largest COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the state.
  • Sunday, Jan. 15 at 1 pm: Three LawsuitsThis program will cover three critical case lawsuits that happened locally from the late 1700s that provided significant legal changes around slavery and questions of freedom. Presented by local historian David Libby.
  • Sunday, Jan. 22 at 12:30 pm: Taste of Rutland: Worcester Regional Food Hub and Local Farmers–Join us to taste and buy the best products grown, raised and crafted locally.

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 local museums, historical societies and other cultural venues.

MoMS kicked off in September at the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum and traveled to the Hull Lifesaving Museum in October before arriving in Rutland. Rutland will be followed by stops at the Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls (2/5/2023 – 3/18/2023), Bushnell-Sage Library, Sheffield (3/26/2023 – 5/6/2023) and Athol Public Library (5/14/2023 – 6/24/2023). Organizations located in towns with populations of 12,000 or less were eligible to apply for the MoMS grant. The six sites chosen for MoMS will have the opportunity for a second-year grant to continue the work and programs they developed as part of MoMS.


For more information about each activation, including the times and locations, click here.  

For further information, contact Jen Atwood at jatwood@masshumanities.org.

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