New Smithsonian Exhibition Opening at Drake Community Library

February 26, 2020

Drake Community Library, in partnership with Grinnell College and members of the community, presents “Grinnell Works” from March 5 to April 19, 2020. The exhibition brings to light the history of work in Grinnell and how it fits within the nation’s history. It explores work through sections focused on places Grinnellians work, how work has been performed in different ways, who has worked in the community, and why work has changed since Grinnell’s founding in 1854. The “Grinnell Works” exhibition helps tell the larger story of how work became such a central element in American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments in the last 150 years. It also brings to light the unseen work and workers undergirding the fabric of our small, rural community.

"Grinnell Works” will open at 5:00 p.m. on March 5 at Drake Community Library with remarks by the library staff, Grinnell College, community members, exhibit organizers, and special guests from the Smithsonian Institution. In addition, Grinnell College will announce its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. The College joins the Smithsonian Affiliate network of more than 200 organizations in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Panama, in collaboration with the Smithsonian – and with each other – to create experiences and share resources that educate and inspire. Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, acting associate provost for education and access of the Smithsonian, Myriam Springuel, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and Smithsonian Affiliations, and Raynard S. Kington, president of Grinnell College, will be on hand to formalize the partnership. A celebration with refreshments will follow.

“Grinnell Works” was created as part of a Smithsonian pilot project to give communities the tools to tell their own unique stories and develop a unique humanities-based exhibition about local work history. The project is a hands-on opportunity for local cultural professionals and community members to learn about the exhibition process with support from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. Nearly 100 individuals and organizations with local ties have contributed to the project.

The curatorial framework for the exhibition was provided by the Smithsonian, and material was crowdsourced from the community through a call for public submissions. Those submissions were then mapped back to the Smithsonian and fleshed out by a team from Grinnell College (Monica Chavez-Silva Sarah Smith, and Lesley Wright) and Drake Community Library (Monique Shore) using local historical images, art, artifacts, and oral histories. They in turn marshalled Grinnell community members, volunteers at the Grinnell Historical Museum, and Grinnell College students to research and write dozens of stories about Grinnell accompanied by photographs and selected artifacts. Using a template from the Smithsonian, Rachel Lakose at Total Choice has turned the images and text into an exciting museum exhibition reflecting the strong history and culture of Grinnell.

“‘Grinnell Works’ builds on the two previous exhibitions from the Smithsonian presented in the past year,” says Lesley Wright, director of the Grinnell College Museum of Art and one of the team leading the project. “This time, the content is local. Dozens of people have told their stories, offered to lend us objects, participated in meetings, and helped us learn so much more about this place we call home. Students and community members have been our writers and researchers. We couldn’t have done it without all their help.”

The exhibition will be displayed in the central space of the Drake Community Library and will be available for viewing whenever the Library is open to the public. Watch for special programs over the six-week exhibition. The exhibition has been designed so that it can be moved to other venues in Grinnell over the next few years, extending its impact and sharing the history collected.

MoMS is a partnership of the Smithsonian institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and state humanities councils. It was created to serve museums, libraries and historical societies in rural areas, where about one-fifth of all Americans live. The partnership brings exhibitions, educational resources and programming to small towns across America. MoMS has visited all 50 U.S. states as well as Guam and inspired some 1,600 towns to rediscover their local histories while finding a renewed sense of community pride. Funding for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

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.

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources.

“Grinnell Works” is supported in part by a grant to Grinnell College from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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