This article was first published by Cape Gazette online at Smithsonian traveling exhibit on-site in Dover thru April 15 | Cape Gazette.
The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village announced Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit, will be on display through Saturday, April 15, on site at the museum, 866 N. Dupont Highway, Dover.
The exhibit offers both rural and urban dwellers the opportunity to look back at their own history and consider the changes that affected their lives and fortunes over the past century, a time when America’s rural population became a minority of its overall population.
In Delaware, the history of agricultural life is one of success achieved through resiliency and successfully managing change. Prime examples among those changes were the DuPont Highway completion and the emergence of the poultry business, both occurring in 1923. The highway allowed farmers to move their products faster and more cheaply, while the poultry business spurred increased production of and profit from the crops needed to feed the chickens.
As advances in agriculture changed the face of rural life in America over the past century, the rural way of living in Delaware adapted to those changes to ensure the continued success of its agricultural enterprises and the vitality of its rural life.
Today, agriculture remains the mainstay of Delaware’s economy in terms of productivity growth, with almost 40 percent of the state’s land devoted to agricultural production.
This important story of life in rural Delaware will be told as a companion piece to the Crossroads exhibit, through narrative panels and video presentations focusing on the prototypical small town of Woodside. It’s a good representative of the ways so many of the state’s small towns adapted to the changes in American agriculture, predominantly through expansion of the Delaware railroad to accommodate farmers in transporting their products to new markets all along the Eastern Seaboard. As the focal point of the exhibit, Woodside farming, then and now, will give a vivid portrayal of rural life in this segment of America.
The Crossroads exhibit serves as a fitting complement to the agriculture museum’s current exhibit, One Day the Lights Came On, which explores the impact of rural electrification on Delaware from the 1930s to the 1960s. Electric power profoundly transformed Delaware agriculture and rural life through a host of time- and labor-saving innovations such as electric milking machines and water pumps outside the house, and electric lights and kitchen appliances inside.
Both of these exhibits segue quite nicely into another major exhibit, Delmarvelous Poultry, soon to open at the agriculture museum, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the poultry industry in Delaware and the groundbreaking role played by Sussex County’s Cecile Long Steele.
Taken as a whole, these three exhibits will provide a fitting tribute to the men and women who were the backbone of Delaware’s vibrant rural communities and agricultural economy.