Smithsonian exhibit visits Torrington

TORRINGTON – The Homesteaders Museum on Main Street buzzed with quiet energy as spectators passed through the visiting Smithsonian exhibit during its grand opening on Nov. 4.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is the latest exhibit to make its way across the country with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service’s Museum on Main Street program. MoMS has visited more than 1,800 rural towns and cities since 1994.

In 1900, approximately 40% of Americans lived in rural communities. In 2010, less than 18% of Americans lived in rural communities. Americans have flocked to urban areas, despite only 10% of the country being urban.

“Crossroads” focuses on the changes rural America has seen throughout the last century and features paintings, interactive learning features and videos from various places across the country depicting life in small towns.

“It exposes how rural communities have always changed and change is just the nature of how it goes,” Wyoming Humanities Museum on Main Street Coordinator Lucas Fralick said. “So what’s great about this exhibit is that basically what it showcases by and large is how rural communities change and they persist, and they change and adapt to those changes.”

The exhibit first opened Nov. 1 and its last day in Torrington will be Dec. 3 before moving on to Cheyenne. Before coming to Torrington, the exhibit stopped in Green River and will travel to Casper, Powell and Douglas once its time is done in Cheyenne. Being short-staffed, the Homesteaders Museum is open for visitors to see the exhibit from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1-3 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. Hours and appointments are also available by calling the museum at 307-532-5612. The grand closing will take place Dec. 2.

“What does rural mean to you?” asked the exhibit to visitors.

Answers ranged “community” to “family” to “farming and ranching and small towns.”

“We’re in it.” answered Jim Brown, who attended the grand opening.

When asked what “rural” means to her, Museum Director Sarah Chaires said, “Community. Everyone takes care of each other. You know your neighbors.”

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program has visited the Homesteaders Museum three times now. Wyoming Humanities partners with the Smithsonian to bring these exhibits to small towns in Wyoming.

“It exposes more people to Smithsonian-quality exhibits,” Fralick said. “[People] who normally might not be able to see those on a regular basis and traveling to Washington D.C. is so pricey anyway…but if an exhibit is in your community, well, there you go. It kind of solves all that problem and that’s a big benefit is exposing to new ideas through Smithsonian exhibits.”

Chaires has been at Homesteaders for the last eight years. She has known about the Smithsonian exhibit for two years now. In planning for the “Crossroads” exhibit, she has overseen a “facelift” for the museum and the installation of the exhibit. 

Volunteers attended special training sessions on how to assemble the exhibit’s various pieces. The exhibit arrived in 16 different crates.

“I don’t even know how many pieces [it came in],” Chaires said. “It took us about six hours with six people to
put it up.”

Now that the installation is complete and the exhibit finally open, Chaires hopes to see more visitors to the museum.

“This is a great way to drive traffic through to the museum,” she said. “A lot of local people and regionally people come to see this. It just really attracts new interest, and especially after COVID shutting everything down, it’s just kind of nice to get something new and exciting down here again.”

With past Museum on Main Street exhibits featuring small towns, visitors have often wondered why there was no mention of Torrington. This time, a picture of Torrington’s Main Street is featured in the exhibit, hidden amongst dozens of other pictures there.

“In years past with the last few we’ve had, people have complained because it doesn’t have anything to do with Torrington,” Chaires said. “This exhibit has a picture of Torrington…Four years ago, when we hosted ‘The Way We Work,’ the team for the Smithsonian was here because we were the host site, and they took a picture of our Main Street, which is really cool.”

© 2022-The Torrington Telegram


Video News
More In Home