Museum on Main Street
The Museum on Main Street (MoMS) Program is the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service. NJCH works closely with the Smithsonian and NJ museums, historical societies and other cultural venues to bring MoMS exhibits to the state. Through highly targeted community programs and creative activities, MoMS exhibitions become a hub for storytelling and local pride. Residents enthusiastically engage with exhibition content, as diverse community members come together to share and celebrate their heritage.
Water: Resource for Life is the newest exhibit from the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street program. Set to debut in 2016 (and touring NJ in 2017), Water is part of a larger Smithsonian initiative on the importance of this essential resource.
“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium.
There is no life without water.”
— Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Hungarian biochemist and
recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine
An essential component of life on our planet, water powers the environment’s engine, impacting climate and shaping the landscape. Humans and animals rely on water for health, hydration, food supplies, and hygiene. Water’s impact on people is not just biological and environmental. It carves out a place in our memories. We cherish our connections to nature, particularly the sights, the sounds, and the sense of place we feel at the water’s edge. Many faiths revere water as a sacred symbol. Authors and artists are inspired by the duality of water – a substance that seems soft and graceful but can exert overwhelming force.
Water also plays a practical role in American society. The availability of water had a significant impact on settlement and migration patterns. Access to water and control of water resources are a central part of political and economic planning. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.
More and more Americans are taking an interest in water. An April 2014 Gallup poll showed that 60% of Americans are concerned about pollution in drinking water. In May 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report that noted 40 states expected to experience water shortages in the next ten years. Water: Resource for Life seeks to foster learning and discussion about the full impact of water on the human experience in the United States.
What is MoMS?
The Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program is the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s key initiative that directly engages small town audiences and brings revitalized attention to underserved rural communities through their own Main Street museums, historical societies and other cultural venues. MoMS develops critical partnerships with state humanities councils to bring Smithsonian traveling exhibitions to small towns. MoMS exhibitions are a powerful catalyst – opening doors to a community’s own history, its culture, its people, and to an enhanced pride of place. To generate grassroots engagement, MoMS works in close collaboration with state humanities councils and more than 900 institutions in rural towns across the nation. For these communities (with an average population of 8,000), the opportunity to host the Smithsonian provides much more than a quality educational experience. Through highly targeted community programs and creative activities, MoMS exhibitions become a hub for storytelling and local pride. Residents enthusiastically engage with exhibition content, as diverse community members come together to share and celebrate their heritage.
It all began in 1991, when thirteen state humanities councils, in coordination with SITES, received a grant from the Smithsonian’s Special Exhibition Fund and conducted a survey of nearly one hundred small, remote cultural institutions. This landmark survey assessed the programmatic and exhibition preferences of rural museums, historical organizations and libraries and provided the basis for state humanities councils’ ongoing collaboration with SITES that eventually developed into Museum on Main Street. The survey verified that residents of America’s small towns experience severe geographic, economic and cultural isolation. These small but vibrant facilities located in rural areas often serve as community centers, well positioned to offer exciting public programs, yet are restricted from doing so by limited budgets and insufficient staff. These small museums are routinely excluded from traveling exhibition programs because they cannot accommodate large structural components, complex installations, and expensive shipping and participation fees. Relying on the results of the survey of small museums, Smithsonian designers developed a new exhibit format that earned a Presidential Design Award for Excellence not only because it delivers high-quality content in a compact package, but also because it is tailored so precisely to the specific needs of resource-poor museums.
What is MoMS’ exhibition focus?
Museum on Main Street circulates Smithsonian exhibitions focusing on broad topics of American history and culture, like roots music, foodways, work and migration. Exhibitions are organized around elements of our shared American experience, helping host organizations explore cultural attributes that bind us as a nation. All exhibitions are freestanding, contain original objects, and travel in easy-to-handle wheeled crates. State humanities councils help local organizers to prepare exhibit-related events with scholarly consultations and preparatory workshops. Small town participants add hard work, ambition, and a sense of fun. As a result, rural museums benefit from high visibility, increased attendance, professional museum training, and capital improvements to their facilities. Museum on Main Street exhibitions have traveled to nearly 700 towns with populations of 500 to 20,000 across the country. They have inspired heightened awareness of local history. Exciting collaborations begin between museums, educational organizations, and local businesses. Entire communities get involved unleashing a tidal wave of public programs and educational activities. The success of Museum on Main Street is evidenced not only in the broad scope of public programs in host communities, but in how the project served as a catalyst in fostering lasting institutional advancements and ambitious capital improvements. With ongoing federal support, Museum on Main Street will continue to showcase local heritage in untold numbers of under-served communities across the country.
NJCH was pleased to host Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America in 2014. The exhibit visited six locations across the state. In addition to housing this exhibit exploring American sports culture, each site host ran programs, events, and/or contents with a sports theme. Communities partnered together to tell their own local stories as the Smithsonian came to town. In addition, NJCH hosted two workshops for teachers, looking at how the subject of sports can be taught in our New Jersey classrooms.
2014 Hometown Teams Program Partners:
- Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center
Montclair/Little Falls (Essex County)
- Atlantic City Historical Museum
- Howell Living History Farm, Mercer County Parks
Titusville (Mercer County)
- Bridgeton Public Library
The Municipality of Bridgeton (Cumberland County)
- Hudson County Community College
Union City Campus Library (Hudson County)
- Morris Museum
Morristown (Morris County)
Hometown Teams New Jersey Press Release (January 27, 2014)
Smithsonian Institution Press Release - 12/05/13 Bridgeton making plans for Smithsonian Institution’s Hometown Teams visiting exhibit – 11/12/13 Smithsonian sports exhibit coming to Atlantic City, Bridgeton in 2014 – 12/25/13 Smithsonian Exhibit Invites Visitors to Root, Root, Root for the Hometown Team – 12/08/13 Smithsonian sports exhibit opens in Atlantic City - 3/23/14 Atlantic City Free Public Library hosts “Hometown Teams” exhibit - 3/21/14