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The Smithsonian is Coming to Essex

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“Crossroads: Changes in Rural America” traveling exhibit produced by The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street program to make first stop in Massachusetts at the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum

The Town of Essex, its rich history 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 Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum (EHSSM) and Essex Town Hall from Sept. 10 through Oct. 22, 2022.

Essex, once home to prosperous shipbuilding and clamming trades, has grown leaps and bounds since its incorporation in 1819. Over the last several months, EHSSM has worked hand-in-hand with the Smithsonian, Mass Humanities and local partners to create additional exhibitions and programming that ties Essex to the major theme, “Crossroads: Changes in Rural America”.

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

Throughout the exhibit the “Crossroads” theme will connect the town’s land, community, identity, persistence, and change to evaluate Essex’s past, present and future. Some of the local partners participating include: The Town of Essex, Town of Essex & City of Gloucester Shellfish Constables, Slow River Studio, Manchester Essex Regional High School students, Burnham Boat Building, Maritime Heritage Charters, The Great Marsh Coalition and Salem State University professors and grad students.

For more information about each activation, including the times and locations of each, visit https://www.essexshipbuilding.org/.

“It’s been such an eye-opening experience working with the amazing team at The Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum and we are excited to see the town’s history take on a new life as part of this programming,” said Executive Director of Mass Humanities Brian Boyles. “It has never been more important to embrace and support each and every small community in Massachusetts. We hope with The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street making its rounds, more people will fall in love with these rural outposts like Essex, just as we have.”

The Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum received extensive training from the staff of 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. Organizations located in towns with populations of 12,000 or less were eligible to apply. 

“This is such a unique opportunity for us to not only showcase the deep history of our community that many people do not know, but also the immense sense of pride of place we locals have for Essex,” said Executive Director for The Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum KD Montgomery. “While we may be small, a single voice can make a huge impact on the rest of the community. Whether you’re a regular tourist or are visiting for the first time, our goal is to inspire and educate our guests on just how special Essex was and is currently.” 

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. A private foundation based in Northampton, Mass Humanities serves as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sponsors for the Essex tour include: Big Y, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Creative County, Essex County Community Foundation, and New England Biolabs Foundation.

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

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