“You’re lying,” said Ardith Douglass from the White River Museum when she heard that they would be hosting the Museum on Main Street “Between Fences” exhibit. “I couldn’t believe the Smithsonian would be coming here!”
This is the first time MoMS has crossed into Colorado, but this is a first for the White River Museum, too: they’ve never hosted a traveling exhibition. Even though the preparation seemed daunting at first, the exhibit’s success has inspired the town to continue hosting traveling exhibitions.
From grade schoolers to grandparents, excitement for “Between Fences” has been electric. A quilting class stitched a few pieces for a silent auction, the colorful fabrics illustrating the rolling countryside, and local students decorated picket fences. According to Sandy, “getting [the middle schoolers] to stick to fences themes was like trying to herd cats! But we are expecting straight pickets from the high school students who will focus on the meanings behind fences.”
So while everyone’s having fun, the exhibit has also worked to tear down a few cultural boundaries. Even though Meeker, CO, prides itself on historical moments like Teddy Roosevelt’s visit in 1901, not every event has been glamorous. Home to the Meeker Massacre—the last Native American uprising in 1879—lingering tensions have continued to divide the town. But as project leader David Steinmen says, “The Smithsonian exhibit brings hope to the community that our local venues can provide something that gathers a crowd together and creates such positive energy.”
And it’s helped to build community partnerships. “As a small town, our resources are slim. But the prominence and substance to this exhibit has changed the community response,” says David, “and we’ve convinced the board we should do more of these types of things.” So even when “Between Fences” picks up its pickets and stakes down in the next city, Meeker will continue forging into uncharted territory.
-- Alexandra Charleston, Museum on Main Street, Washington, DC