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Smithsonian traveling exhibition highlighting changing landscape of rural America coming to South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum

Crossroads Logo

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with the South Dakota Humanities Council, presents “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” The exhibition examining the evolving landscape of rural America opens at the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum in Brookings, SD and will be open from September 15, 2022 through January 8, 2023.

The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the South Dakota Humanities Council to host “Crossroads” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour four communities in South Dakota from September 2022 through June 2023.

“Crossroads” explores how rural American communities changed in the 20th century. From sea to shining sea, the vast majority of the United States landscape remains rural with only 3.5% of the landmass considered urban. Since 1900, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas dropped from 60% to 17%. The exhibition looks at that remarkable societal change and how rural Americans responded.

Americans have relied on rural crossroads for generations. These places where people gather to exchange goods, services and culture and to engage in political and community discussions are an important part of our cultural fabric. 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.

“‘Crossroads’ allows us to reflect on Brookings and South Dakota State University history, present and future and we are excited to explore what the future may hold for our community,” said Gwen McCausland, museum director. “We want to convene conversations about what makes our community unique and have developed local exhibitions and public programs to complement the Smithsonian exhibition.”

The opening reception for this exhibit will be held on Friday, September 23 in conjunction with the South Dakota Festival of Books. The reception is free and open to the public and will be held from 4:30–7 p.m. at the museum. Additionally, Sarah Vogel, author of The Farmer’s Lawyer, will provide an author talk and sign books starting at 5:30 p.m.  Additional free programs will be held throughout the exhibition, and more information about the opening reception and other events can be found at AgMuseum.com.

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Crossroads” will serve as a community meeting place for conversations about how rural America has changed. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about their own history, the joys and challenges of living rural, how change has impacted their community, and prompt discussion of goals for the future.

The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about “Crossroads” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit www.museumonmainstreet.org.

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the U.S. Congress. Support for this exhibition has been provided by the South Dakota Humanities Council and South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit www.sites.si.edu.