This spring, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History is launching the Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive, reaching out to farmers, ranchers and American agri-business to preserve America's agricultural heritage and build a collection that reflects modern agricultural practices. Curators are seeking stories, photographs and ephemera to record and preserve the innovations and experiences related to farming and ranching.
On National Agriculture Day, March 19, the museum unveiled a new Web site where the public can upload stories about technologies and innovations that have changed their work lives in agriculture.
"The story of agriculture is important and complex," says John Gray, director of the museum. "In Jefferson's time, 96% of Americans were farmers; today that number is less than 2%. Despite this drop, productivity has skyrocketed and agriculture has evolved into a technology-driven profession with the cab of a tractor akin to a traditional CEO's office."
The new collection of stories, photos and objects will play a role in the "American Enterprise" exhibition, an 8,000-square-foot multimedia experience that will immerse visitors in the dramatic arc of the nation's story, focusing on the role of business and innovation in the United States from the mid-1700s to the present. The exhibition is scheduled to open in May 2015.
The American Enterprise project budget is $20 million, which includes the exhibition, a virtual exhibition on the Web, a rich array of programs and demonstrations as well as an endowment for a Curator of American Business. Recent gifts in support of the "American Enterprise" exhibition include a $2 million gift from Monsanto Company and a $1 million gift from the United Soybean Board.
"American agriculture has gone through a tremendous transformation in the past seven decades, becoming a high-tech industry, deeply affecting not just farmers themselves, but every American and the American experience in general," says Peter Liebhold, curator and chair, Division of Work and Industry.
The exhibition will tell the story of the nation's business, centering on themes of opportunity, innovation, compeition and common good with examples drawn from five areas: agriculture, consumer finance, information technology/communications, manufacturing and retail/service.
For more details and to participate in the project, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu/agheritage.
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