The Way We Worked

Ran July 13 through Oct. 5, 2019

An exploration of America’s world of work was on view from July 13 through Oct. 5, 2019 at the Drake Community Library in Grinnell. Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration, The Way We Worked explored how work has become a central element in American culture. It traced the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and increasing use of technology. The exhibition drew from the National Archives’ rich collections, including historical photographs, archival accounts of workers, film, audio and interactives, to tell the compelling story of how work impacts our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities. It also demonstrated how the diversity of the American workforce is one of its strengths, providing an opportunity to explore how people of all races and ethnicities identified commonalities and worked to knock down barriers in the work world. The exhibition showed how we identify with work – as individuals and as communities. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to hear workers tell their own stories and view films of various industries. Interactive components conveyed the experiences of multiple generations of families involved in the same industry.

This Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition was free and open to the public during public hours at Drake Community Library from July 13–Oct. 5, 2019.

Local Programming

Opening Day Walking Tour of Historic Grinnell, July 15, 2019.

A self-guided walking tour featured stories of Grinnell’s courageous, influential, and enduring workers and workplaces. Historic locations included: the livery and stable, Arnold’s Shoe Store, Popcorn Wagon, Beatnik Coffee Shop, original McNally’s, worker dorms, blacksmith, and Candyland Station.

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