Smithsonian traveling exhibition highlighting changing landscape of rural America opens Jan. 25 at Museum of the Albemarle

Smithsonian traveling exhibition highlighting changing landscape of rural America opens Jan. 25 at Museum of the Albemarle

January 18th, 2023

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with the North Carolina Humanities Council, presents “Crossroads: Change in Rural America”, an exhibition examining the evolving landscape of rural American opens at the Museum of the Albemarle on the evening of Wednesday, January 25, 2023, with guest speaker Zane Hedgecock, Chief of Staff, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Crossroads” will be on display at the museum in downtown Elizabeth City through March 8, 2023.

The Museum of the Albemarle and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the North Carolina Humanities Council to host “Crossroads” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour six communities in North Carolina from through April 2023.

“Crossroads” explores how rural American communities changed in the 20th century. From sea to shining sea, the vast majority of the United States landscape remains rural with only 3.5% of the landmass considered urban.

Since 1900, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas dropped from 60% to 17%. The exhibition looks at that remarkable societal change and how rural Americans responded.

Americans have relied on rural crossroads for generations. These places where people gather to exchange goods, services, and culture and to engage in political and community discussions are an important part of our cultural fabric. Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by these changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development.

“‘Crossroads’ allows us to reflect on our region’s history, present and future and we are excited to explore what the future may hold for our community,” said Don Pendergraft, Director of Regional Museums and Museum of the Albemarle.

“We want to convene conversations about what makes our community unique and have developed local exhibitions and public programs to complement the Smithsonian exhibition,” Pendergraft said.

View original artwork depicting active or former country stores that are/were vital to the cultural and economic aspects of the Albemarle Region submitted by students in grades 4th through college/university students.

This component is made possible through a grant from the Elizabeth City Foundation and will be available for viewing January 25, 2023.

Paul Liu, PhD, North Carolina State University, will provide a virtual lecture on sea level rise and the effects of rural northeastern North Carolina on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, at noon.

Guest can gather in the Gaither Auditorium at the Museum of the Albemarle or virtually. Experience an in-house multi-media component celebrating “Century Farms of Northeastern North Carolina.”

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Crossroads” will serve as a community meeting place for conversations about how rural America has changed. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about their own history, the joys and challenges of living rural, how change has impacted their community, and prompt discussion of goals for the future.

The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about “Crossroads” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit

Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. The Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle assisted with this exhibition.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit

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