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JUNE 2011
Michigan Humanities Council Newsletter
  “Way We Worked” Smithsonian Exhibit Coming to Michigan

Host Sites Chosen for 2012-13 Traveling Exhibit

The Way We WorkedThe Michigan Humanities Council is proud to announce the selection of host sites for The Way We Worked, a traveling Smithsonian exhibit, for its 2012-13 statewide tour.

The Way We Worked explores how work became a central element in American culture by tracing the changes that affected the workforce over the past 150 years. Using large-format pictures, objects and interactive components, the exhibit will show how we identify with work, as individuals and as communities. The Michigan Humanities Council is coordinating the state tour and will support host communities with grants, program planning workshops and tour logistics.

“The Way We Worked tells the story of building the nation and its economy through our work, occupations and professions,” said John Beck, state project scholar and associate director and professor for the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at MSU. “The exhibit allows us to explore locally how the men and women of Michigan over the decades have used their daily work to provide for their families, and built community within our towns, cities, and workplaces in the process.”

The Way We WorkedThe exhibit will visit the Presque Isle County Historical Museum (Roger’s City), the Museum at Southwestern Michigan College (Dowagiac), the Cromaine District Library (Hartland), the Escanaba Public Library (Escanaba), the Pere Marquette District Library (Clare), and the Hart Area Public Library (Hart), between September 2012 and June 2013.

“I am really looking forward to giving the community the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Institution without leaving their hometown,” said Steve Arseneau, museum director for the Museum at Southwestern Michigan College.

While stopping at these six rural communities, the exhibit’s national approach will be complemented by public programming focused on the local work history for each area. This might include development of an exhibit, discussion programs or community-based documentaries.

The history in each area is different, so local exhibits will be very unique from each other. For example, while Escanaba was built around shipping, fishing and timber, Hartland started as a farming community, but now is home to many commuters and entrepreneurs.

 “Many people are questioning their work/life conflicts and what is important. Looking at the past, our community had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, which is returning. We want people to think about motivations, passions and working toward your dreams,” said Carol Taggart, marketing manager for Cromaine District Library.

In Dowagiac, Arseneau said their localized exhibit will highlight factories, veterans, agriculture and public sector workers.

“There is a strong labor history in the area, from agriculture to factories, and I hope this exhibit can open a dialogue regarding historic and contemporary issues,” Arseneau said.

Host sites will partner with local organizations, schools, libraries and community members for supporting programs and publicity.

 “We would … like to engage our local trade and labor council in putting exhibit themes and ideas into the context of everyday life and work in the U.P.,” said Carolyn Stacey, director for the Escanaba Public Library. “We have a very active historical society in Delta County with top-notch archives, and expect to work with them in highlighting the significance of local industry.”

The Escanaba exhibit will also coincide with the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, as well as the anniversary of Bay College.

The Way We Worked is part of the Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils across the country. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

For more information, please visit the Michigan Humanities Council website,, email, or call 517-372-7770.


Exhibit Schedule

Sept. 14 – Oct. 29, 2012
Presque Isle County Historical Museum
Rogers City

Nov. 2 – Dec. 17, 2012
Museum at Southwestern Michigan College

Dec. 21, 2012 –
Feb. 11, 2013

Cromaine District Library

Feb. 15 – April 1, 2013
Escanaba Public Library

April 5 –
May 20, 2013

Pere Marquette
District Library

May 24 – July 8, 2013
Hart Area Public Library


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Michigan Humanities Council
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