Beyond Grandma’s AtticOn display until April 2019
Crossroads: Change in Rural AmericaThis exhibit was open from May 10, 2019 through March 2020. Click on the above link for a virtual tour.
This award-winning exhibit showed the complicated story of rural America by connecting local history to this national story.
In 1900 about 40% of Americans lived in rural areas. By 2010 less than 18% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. In just over a century massive economic and social changes moved millions of Americans into urban areas, yet only 10% of the U.S. landmass is considered urban.
Many Americans consider rural communities to be endangered and hanging on by a thread—suffering from brain drain, inadequate schools, and a barren and overused landscape. Why should revitalizing the rural places that have been left behind matter to those who remain, those who left, and those who will come in the future? Because there is much more to the story of rural America.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America offers small towns a chance to look at their own paths, to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition will prompt discussions about what happened when America’s rural population became a minority of the country’s population and the ripple effects that occurred.
Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by these changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development. Economic innovation and a focus on the cultural facets that make small towns unique, comfortable, and desirable have helped many communities create their own renaissance. The future is bright for much of rural America, as small towns embrace the notion that their citizens and their cultural uniqueness are important assets.
Crossroads: Change in Rural America is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and Illinois Humanities.