Smithsonian exhibit kicks off Indiana tour at Dillsboro

Dillsboro, a small town with a splashy history, will kick off a six-stop Indiana tour of the Smithsonian-curated exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America as part of Indiana Humanities’ INseparable initiative.

Dillsboro Public Library, a branch of the Aurora Public Library District, will host the exhibit from Sept. 7 to Oct. 20.

The aim is to encourage the town of 1,400 residents just 40 miles west of Cincinnati to examine the economic and social changes that have affected its fortunes over the past century, explore how it has adapted, and spark discussions about the future.

The library will kick off the tour with a grand opening ceremony on Sept. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A locally-developed component of the exhibit will share the town’s history as a mineral-water resort for well-heeled travelers in the early 1900s as well as explain how it has adapted since U.S. 50 was rerouted to bypass the town.

Dillsboro librarians already have encouraged the area’s schoolchildren to develop a vision for the town by asking them to consider what they would do if they were mayor. Some want to build a skateboard park. Others want a grocery store.

“For a lot of them, the theme was they wanted to do things to make people safe and encourage everyone to be kind to each other,” said Cathy Wilkymacky, the Dillsboro library branch manager. “Nice, reasonable things.”

Visitors will get their own chance to ponder the future of Dillsboro and other small towns by strolling through the exhibit as it traces the national ebb and flow of rural America from farming to industrialization to the digital age.

The exhibit is part of the Museum on Main Street program, a division of the Smithsonian that brings high-quality exhibits and resources to rural communities. Indiana Electric Cooperatives is a sponsor of the Indiana tour.

“Conversations about change in rural communities like Dillsboro are vital to the future of Indiana,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “We are excited to be able to provide the Crossroads exhibition as a catalyst for dialogue around the past, present and future of rural Indiana.”

John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives, said his organization is proud to sponsor the exhibit and continue the cooperatives’ role in supporting the development and economic health of rural Indiana.

“The quality of life in the communities we serve is just as important to us today as it was when the cooperatives were first formed in the 1930s,” Gasstrom said. “We have a legacy of responding to the needs of our consumers as a community partner for more than eight decades.”

 After Dillsboro, the Crossroads exhibit will make five more stops in Indiana:
 Washington County Historical Society in Salem, Oct. 26 to Dec. 8.
Jennings County Historical Society in Vernon, Dec. 14 to Jan. 26, 2020.
Elkhart County Historical Museum in Bristol, Feb. 1, 2020 to March 15, 2020.
North Manchester Center for History in Wabash County, March 21, 2020 to May 3, 2020.
University of Southern Indiana/Historic New Harmony in Posey County, May 9, 2020 to June 21, 2020.

Each community will host the exhibit for six weeks and receive training, funding and other resources from the Smithsonian and Indiana Humanities. The Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs and the Indiana Historical Society also provided mentoring and advice to local exhibit teams.

Host organizations also receive a $2,000 grant from Indiana Humanities to cover costs associated with the development of the local component for the exhibit, including design, fabrication and more.

Another nine sites were awarded $1,500 grants to develop programs, mini-exhibits and other projects related to the themes of the Crossroads exhibit. They are:

 Greentown Historical Society in Howard County
Harrison County Discovery Center in Corydon
Jasper Community Arts in Dubois County
Lawrenceburg Main Street in Dearborn County
Marshall County Historical Society in Plymouth
New Carlisle-Olive Twp. Public Library in St. Joseph County
Ripley County Tourism Bureau in Versailles
Trine University in Angola, Steuben County
Wabash County Historical Museum in Wabash

 Indiana Humanities is bringing the Crossroads exhibit to Indiana as part of its two-year INseparable initiative. INseparable invites Hoosiers to explore how we relate to each other across boundaries, real or imagined, and consider what it will take to indeed be inseparable, in all the ways that matter.