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Smithsonian exhibit coming to library



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January 15, 2014 - Oxford residents won't have to travel all the way to Washington D.C. to view a piece of the Smithsonian because one is coming to their community later this year.

The Oxford Public Library will host a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit entitled, "The Way We Worked," from Dec. 6, 2014 through Feb. 1, 2015.

Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration, this traveling version explores how work became a central element in American culture and documents the everyday lives of ordinary workers.

"It's truly an honor and a privilege that our small town and our small town library would be one of five sites selected in the State of Michigan to host this exhibit," said Library Director Bryan Cloutier. "We're all about the preservation of history in many different ways."

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibit chronicles the numerous and significant changes that impacted American workers and their environments from the mid-19th century through the late 20th century.

These changes include the rise of manufacturing, the evolving use of technology, urbanization, immigration, the labor movement, the diversification of the workplace to include racial minorities and women, wars and economic depression.

The exhibit includes photographs, workers' stories, film, audio and interactive components, and even objects like hard hats.

The exhibit is part of a national program called Museum on Main Street, a Smithsonian initiative that focuses on engaging small-town audiences and bringing attention to underserved, rural communities through local museums, historical societies, libraries and other cultural venues.

In addition to the library's ability to easily house an exhibit of this nature, Cloutier believes "Oxford's rich working history" is a big reason the community was selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as a host site.

Oxford's history includes farming, gravel mining, railroads and manufacturing boats for Sea Ray.

Like a number of communities in southeast Michigan, Oxford is also intimately tied to the automotive industry as many residents work for auto companies and their countless suppliers.

In conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit, Cloutier said the library will host an exhibit from the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum in downtown Oxford that focuses on local industries and labor.

"We had to be able to prove to the Michigan Humanities Council that, as a small community, we could rally our resources together and . . . successfully implement the exhibit here. And that's what we were able to do," he said. "It's not just about making a successful venture for the Oxford Public Library. It's (about) making Oxford, as a community, successful."

Cloutier said the library will develop and offer programs to supplement the exhibit.

"It's not just bringing the exhibit to the Oxford Public Library and putting it in a room that's viewable to the public," he said. "There's a lot more that goes into it than that and it's a much larger commitment than that."

To learn more about the Smithsonian's "The Way We Worked" exhibit, please visit www.museumonmainstreet.org

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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