A new partnership between Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the historic Sumner Hall will bring the Smithsonian Institution to Chestertown in 2017. Maryland Humanities has named Chestertown one of five host sites for the 2017 statewide tour of the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition The Way We Worked.
Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives, The Way We Worked explores the role of work in American culture over the past 150 years. Sites hosting the exhibition—which is part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program—will develop related exhibitions and educational programs that highlight their local “work stories” and labor history. The Sumner Hall, a community center and restored African-American Civil War veterans’ post, will be the site of the centerpiece exhibition.
“We are thrilled to have been designated as one of the Maryland sites to host The Way We Worked exhibition,” says Nina Johnson, president of its board of directors. “Along with C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and our other great partners, we expect to create a real celebration to honor all workers in our community.”
Washington College’s Starr Center, the lead partner on the project, will engage students and faculty in the Smithsonian exhibition and developing related exhibits and programming.
“This project will provide Washington College students from a variety of academic fields with a hands-on introduction to many facets of museum work, nonprofit management, public programming, and community partnerships,” says Adam Goodheart, the center’s Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. “Its subject matter spans many disciplines, including history, anthropology, economics, environmental studies, and business management. It will give our students prestigious work experience with the Smithsonian. And finally, it’s an exciting new partnership between the college and the town.”
Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service program that teams up with state humanities councils to bring high-quality traveling exhibits to small communities through their own museums, historical societies, and other cultural venues. Residents enthusiastically interact with exhibit content as diverse community members come together to share and celebrate their heritage. It’s an opportunity to generate long-lasting community partnerships, and for small museums to build institutional capacity and reach new audiences.
Although The Way We Worked won’t arrive in Chestertown until March 2017, Sumner Hall volunteers and Washington College students and faculty are rolling up their sleeves eager to begin work on companion exhibitions and educational programming. Ideas were flowing at a recent community planning meeting attended by partners from the Kent County Public Library, Kent County Public Schools, Sultana Education Foundation, town of Chestertown, RiverArts, Downtown Chestertown Association, Kent County Historical Society, Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board, and the college’s Center for Environment and Society and Library and Academic Technology.
Community-wide special events, symposia, concerts, children’s programs, exhibitions, oral history projects, videos, digital apps, and GIS mapping programs will bring to life well-known and little-known stories of work in Kent County. African American work history will be a focus at Sumner Hall, while other exhibitions and programs will look at small businesses, agriculture, the arts, and the county’s working relationship with the Chesapeake Bay.
For more information or to volunteer for the project, please contact Carolyn Brooks at Sumner Hall [email protected] , 443-282-0023 or Jean Wortman, Assistant Director at the Starr Center [email protected] or 410-810-7165.
Under the auspices of Maryland Humanities, The Way We Worked will travel to four other sites in Maryland: Brunswick Heritage Museum in Brunswick, Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, Salisbury University Art Galleries in Salisbury, and Western Maryland Heritage Association in Cumberland.