It’s a traveling exhibit for a reason. The Smithsonian’s mission “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” shouldn’t stop at the borders of D.C. With Museum on Main Street, we take Smithsonian treasures throughout the country because not everyone can make the pilgrimage here. And we’re grateful for the humanities councils and venues who give us a home on the road. And some, like Carver Country Historical Society in Minnesota, have taken educational accessibility one step farther.
As a host of “Journey Stories,” Carver County wanted to make sure students especially could see the show, regardless of battered school funds. So Executive Director Wendy Biorn applied for a grant with Target Corporation, headquartered in the Twin Cities. The full $2,000 award for educational services provided transportation to the show for eleven school groups—the cost of busing no longer prohibitive. And the kids seemed to get out of the trip what it should be: an exposure to something new, a stimulation of thought, and a lot of fun.
In addition to traveling through “Journey Stories,” children participated in a “Life in a Box” program, which forced them to choose the most valuable items they would pack if they needed to take their life on the road—a tricky balance between practicality and emotional attachment. As recounted by Tracy Ketterling, a teacher at the Anishinabe Academy, a Native American school in Minneapolis (many of whose students had never been on a field trip before), the exercise had much “relevance to our population.” They also watched a few storytellers. After all, history is a story of its people. They learned how Minnesota fit underneath the arch of America’s growth, hearing about the booming fur trade of pioneer days and local folklore like Paul Bunyan. Afterward, the children witnessed living history, visiting the preserved farm of Andrew Peterson, one of the town’s oldest members who had emigrated from Sweden in the late 1800s.
And like all stories, each of history’s narrators has a different perspective. As Ms. Ketterling said, “It is interesting to hear the journey stories from different points of view. We tend to think of it in terms of being invaded, and in ways violated by the waves of foreign people […] who were sold a skewed version of what was available for them here. It still took a lot of courage to not only uproot their selves from a life they knew, but to bring their families along on the arduous adventure.”
History isn’t a fairytale; it’s a collection of authors. It’s who we are, in all our glory and our shame. But it’s a must-read, and like Smithsonian and Carver County, we want to make sure everyone has a copy.
-- Alexandra Charleston, Museum on Main Street, Washington, DC