Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Highlighting Changing Landscape of Rural America Coming to Paducah

Julie Harris
(270) 575-9958

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with the Kentucky Humanities Council, presents “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” The exhibition examining the evolving landscape of rural American opens at the River Discovery Center in downtown Paducah. “Crossroads” will be on view from January 9, 2021 through February 13, 2021 from 9:30am-5pm Monday through Saturday.  (The Center is following safety guidelines recommended by the state of Kentucky.)

The River Discovery Center and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the Kentucky 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 seven communities in Kentucky from October 10, 2020  through August 7, 2021.

“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 Paducah history, present and future and we are excited to explore what the future may hold for our community,” said Julie Harris, executive director of the River Discovery Center. “We want to convene conversations about what makes our community unique and have developed local exhibitions and public programs to complement the Smithsonian exhibition.” Due to the COVID pandemic, the status of public programming is uncertain. The River Discovery Center will alert the public when the status of the free programs and the schedule and locations is determined.  

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 the 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 www.museumonmainstreet.orgSupport for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress.

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

This exhibit was made possible by:

Saturday, February 13, 2021