The Smithsonian exhibit “The Way We Worked” will be making a stop in Cullman early next year, and Alabama Humanities Foundation executive director Armand DeKeyser notes the traveling project is just one of many the agency spearheads to encourage artistic initiatives around Alabama.
“I’d like to think we inspire,” DeKeyser said. “Its great to be able to bring a Smithsonian exhibit to small towns around Alabama, and its a fascinating exhibit.”
Part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street initiative, “The Way We Worked,” has made stops across the country and will be installed at the Cullman County Museum from February 9 until March 20.
The exhibit focuses on the larger questions of why we work and the needs that our jobs fulfill, including work on the land, streets of local communities, offices and factories, homes, and even in space.
Officials say it is an exploration of the tools and technologies that enabled and assisted workers, and also reveals how workers sometimes found themselves with better tools, but also with faster, more complex and often more stressful work environments.
“It shows how we identify with work, as work assigns cultural meaning and puts our society in a larger context,” DeKeyser said.
He also noted the exhibit will mostly be making stops in smaller cities and communities, as opposed to more traditional cultural centers like Birmingham or Huntsville.
“These give small towns the opportunity to demonstrate their culture and history, and the meaningful contributions to the local area,” DeKeyser said. “You’ll notice we’re going to smaller cities like Athens, and Cullman, instead of bigger places. The reason for that is you see communities like this one with a real desire to have these types of programs in their communities, and we’ve seen there’s more interest and a greater demand in small communities with a passion for it.”
The exhibit will also feature a recording session for locals to share about their own jobs and what they mean to them, which will be processed and returned to the museum to join the local archives.
“So many communities are losing their history, and this is a way to talk about your history and what its all about,” he said.
The Alabama Humanities Foundation is funded from federal, state and private donations that supports programs such as the traveling Smithsonian exhibit, as well as other local humanity efforts across the state. The group also offers expert cultural speakers to civic groups and clubs at no cost. It is managed by a 25-member board.
“The board does several things, and also charges us with making sure our mission doesn’t have just a single focus,” he said.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.