Crossroads: Essex Museum Kicks Off Smithsonian Exhibit


In 1994 the Smithsonian created a series of traveling programs to share their exhibitions, research, educational resources, and programming with small towns across America.  Since that time, these exhibits, known as Museum on Main Street (MoMS), have visited more than 1,900 communities across America -- but none in Massachusetts.

This weekend that is going to change with the arrival of the MoMS exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” which opens at the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum (EHSSM) in partnership with the Essex Town Hall on Saturday, September 10.  

While the vast majority of the country remains rural, with only 3.5 percent identified as urban, those communities have retracted from 60 percent to 17 percent since 1990.  Crossroads hopes to begin the conversation around how these communities have adapted to significant demographic and economic shifts, and how they can creatively and intentionally move forward into the future.

“‘Crossroads’ allows us to reflect on Essex’s history, present and future and we are excited to explore what the future may hold for our community.” said KD Montgomery Executive Director of EHSSM. “We want to convene conversations about what makes our community unique and have developed local exhibitions and public programs to compliment the Smithsonian exhibition.”

The exhibit explores how throughout history, rural communities have relied upon crossroads as places to gather, exchange goods, and share ideas.  With this in mind, the three locations of the exhibit themselves create a sort of crossroads.  Beginning with the larger installation on the third floor of the Essex Town Hall, the exhibit moves to the shipyard and orientation center of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and then, down the road to the Essex Historical Society.

Together, these visits are intended to inspire the folks of Essex to consider how they, as a rural community, have changed over the past 100 years, and, perhaps more importantly, how they want to change over the next 100.  Montgomery explains, “The exhibit gives Essex the opportunity to reexamine its identity. A lot of changes have taken place over the past 100 years for all of us. This gives individual people a chance to effect real change.”

In addition to the exhibit itself, the programming around it is spectacular.  There are 12 programs bookended by launch and wrap parties. Programming includes roundtable discussions, lectures, sketching and plein air painting demonstrations, and even a Dungeons and Dragons game designed by students at Manchester Essex High School. 

The exhibit kicks off with a launch party on Saturday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and runs for six weeks only.  It is not to be missed. 

Location, dates, and a program schedule can be found at Launch party this Saturday, September 10, 10 a.m. to noon.