Smithsonian crossroad exhibit Downtown Newberry

This Exhibit is Sponsored by SC Humanities, Samsung, and Wells Fargo

Newberry, SC- This winter the Newberry Opera House has the privilege of hosting one of the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibits that will be touring parts of the Country throughout the rest of 2018 and into late 2019. The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with South Carolina Humanities, presents “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” The exhibition will be examining the evolving landscape of rural America and opens at the Newberry Opera House, in the lobby, on Dec. 16, 2018, and “Crossroads” will be on view through Feb. 2, 2019. 

The Newberry Opera House and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the South Carolina Humanities to host “Crossroads” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—This state and local partnership with Smithsonian will bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations and locations in South Carolina. The exhibition will tour five communities in South Carolina from 10/27/2018 through 6/29/2019 including Newberry. 

Southern Station Train station in Newberry County Southern Station (Train station that was located in Newberry County)










The reason that Newberry was chosen to host this exhibit because Newberry County is a rural county that has evolved from when the town of Newberry was established in 1789. The area of what is now Newberry County was mainly first settled by German, Irish and English immigrants in the mid-eighteenth century. Many historical sites including Native American sites, battlegrounds from the American Revolution and the American Civil War, many small communities that remain today such as Prosperity, Peak, Little Mountain, Chappells, Silverstreet, Whitmire, and Stoney Hill, and Newberry College all sit within Newberry County. Newberry was originally a cotton-farming town, that would later have a railroad built, cutting straight through the community. Talking points in this exhibit may mention how Newberry has evolved through the years of its existence and stayed relevant thanks to Newberry College, the Newberry Opera House and the outstanding citizens of Newberry County. 


Newberry College postcard from 1856 tiny PNG Newberry College Postcard (taken in 1856)

“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. America’s small towns are responsible for feeding the U.S., providing raw materials and even cultural innovation for much of America. There have been many popular TV shows and Films that came out of the cultural impact rural communities have had and continue to have on the U.S. Many of these films include: Charlotte’s Web, To Kill A Mocking Bird, Hoosiers, Gone With The Wind, Sweet Home Alabama and many others. Rural communities have also played an important role in classical literature from the last 100 to 200 years with novels such as: On Walden Pond, O’ Pioneers, Gone with The Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird, Friday Night Lights, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and many more.

The Smithsonian Crossroads’ exhibit allows the Newberry community to reflect on Newberry and Newberry County’s history, present and future. It will bring about discussions about how Newberry has changed in response to the continued urbanization of America. This exhibit is open to the public for no charge and will sit in the lobby, hosting speakers Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts on Dec.16, 2018 at 4:00 P.M. and Tom Poland on Jan. 22, 2019 at 11:00 A.M. with a book signing later that day at 7:00 P.M. 

Smiths Moor Company Car Dealership in Newberry Sc Tiny PNGSmith's Motor Company (picture taken in the 1950s)  









Designed for small-town museums, libraries, and cultural organizations, the “Crossroads” exhibit serves as a community meeting place for conversations about how rural America has changed. With the support and guidance of the South Carolina humanities council, Newberry and four other towns in South Carolina have developed 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 prompted discussion about the future.


Don’t miss this great exhibit and the tasks associated with this exhibit when they are at the Newberry Opera House this winter!