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Mountain Heritage Center to host traveling Smithsonian exhibit highlighting rural America

Meade Corporation Sylva

Meade Corporation paper plant and Tannery Flats neighborhood, Sylva, mid 20th Century. Image courtesy Special Collections, Hunter Library, WCU.

The Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University has been selected by North Carolina Humanities to host the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

The exhibit examining the evolving landscape of rural America will be open March 15 to April 25. Visiting times for this free exhibit are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mountain Heritage Center on the WCU’s campus.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is a Smithsonian Institution exhibit that offers small towns and rural communities a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. Through stories and images, the exhibit explores how rural America embraces the notion that their citizens and their cultural uniqueness are important assets. All Americans benefit from rural America's successes and great things can be learned from listening to the stories from rural communities.

“Exhibiting ‘Crossroads: Change in Rural America’ allows us to reflect on the region’s history and culture and how that impacts its future.” said Peter Koch, education associate at the MHC. “With support from North Carolina Humanities, we are developing accompanying exhibits to showcase local people and stories. These exhibits were created by public history students from WCU and will be on display at the Jackson County Public Library starting in late-March and continuing through November. Like the main exhibit, they explore the past, present and future of topics including agriculture, health care, transportation and culture.”

The MHC will also be co-hosting various events in conjunction with the Crossroads exhibit to spark conversations about what makes our community unique and essential. On April 18 at 5 p.m., the MHC and WCU’s Public Policy Institute will present a roundtable with representatives of local nonprofits in the Hinds University Center’s multipurpose room. On April 28, the MHC will present “Exploring Black History on the Blue Ridge Parkway” with Anne Mitchell Whisnant of Duke University. This program will take place at 1 p.m. at the Jackson County Public Library.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” has been made possible at the MHC, by North Carolina Humanities. It is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. North Carolina Humanities is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities,

For more information about the exhibit or the Mountain Heritage Center please visit or call 828-227-7129.

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