LEWISTON — It will be the only place to catch “The Way We Worked” in Maine.
For the next three months, Museum L-A will host the traveling Smithsonian exhibit that explores work and workers in America. It will be the only museum in the state to offer the exhibit.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to really come and see how work changed in so many ways,” Executive Director Rachel Desgrosseilliers said. “And it will be good for a lot of children to see types of work they probably can’t relate to because it’s changed so much. That’s the beautiful thing about the exhibit; they’re showing not just how work changed, but how technology changed work.”
The exhibit will run Feb. 8 through May 4 and will feature photographs, artifacts, audio, video and interactive components to showcase the working world from 1857 to 1987. It will also offer a wall where adults can post photos of themselves working and children can post photos of their parents and grandparents at work.
The five sections of the exhibit will include:
* “Where We Worked” will explore workplaces in America, including farms, factories, mines and restaurants, as well as how race and gender determined workers’ roles.
* “How We Worked” will examine the effects of technology on jobs.
* “What We Wore to Work” will look at uniforms.
* “Conflict at Work” will look back at clashes over working conditions, wages and hours, as well as how social conflicts, such as segregation, influenced the workplace.
* “Dangerous or Unhealthy Work” will feature photographs taken by social reformers hoping to ban child labor, reduce the length of the workday and expose unsanitary workplaces.
The museum also will showcase work in Lewiston-Auburn, using artifacts, photos and documents to highlight various professions, including those in medicine, law, music and manufacturing.
“We’re adding pieces of history of Lewiston-Auburn that are going to be very, very interesting to see,” Desgrosseilliers said.
Museum L-A has long showcased labor in Lewiston-Auburn. It is in the first year of “The Power of Music,” a three-year exhibit that looks at the importance of the music industry to the Twin Cities.
When Historic New England, a Massachusetts-based historic preservation organization, asked Museum L-A if it wanted to host the Smithsonian’s exhibit on work, museum leaders jumped at the opportunity.
“I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is perfect,'” Desgrosseilliers said.
Museum L-A had to apply for the exhibit and get approval from the Smithsonian, as well as Historic New England and the Maine Humanities Council, both of which provided grants to bring the exhibit here. It also is being sponsored by Procter and Gamble and Center Street Dental.
Museum L-A was the only museum in Maine chosen to host “The Way We Worked,” in part because of its commitment to labor history and in part because it had the room to set up the large exhibit. The museum will temporarily take down half of “The Power of Music” to make room. That full exhibit will return with phase two, which centers on the Jazz Age in Lewiston-Auburn.
Museum L-A received the crates for “The Way We Worked” Tuesday. Set-up will begin Wednesday, and the exhibit will open to the public on Friday, Feb. 8.
Desgrosseilliers hopes it will be the first of many Smithsonian exhibits and programs in Lewiston.
“They’re very intrigued by what the Museum L-A is doing, and they invited us to apply to become a Smithsonian affiliate,” she said. “We’re excited about that. We’re looking into that now, to getting the application going this year.”
Admission to the museum is $5 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.