The new Smithsonian exhibit, Between Fences will examine the impact fences have had on our lives and our nation’s history. Globe is one of only six rural Arizona communities to receive notice that they will be one of the select few.
It will be the first time a traveling exhibit of such stature has arrived in Globe-Miami.
According to the Smithsonian, “the Department of Agriculture estimated the total value of fences in 1871 at 1.7 billion. A sum almost equal to the national debt. Here in the West, fencing has always held a pivotal role in our history, beginning with the introduction of barbed wire in 1874. This new type of fencing changed the dynamics of the West and altered the way people used the land which, among other changes, led to Open Range Wars “…which pitted those who believed in the Law of the Open Range- free access to water and grass for everyone, against the “barbed wire men”- land barons who used the new fencing to define their empire and block the free-range cattlemen from moving their herds.” (Wikipedia) Though the days of range wars are over – the fight now seems to be over borders and aesthetics. That old song, “don’t fence me in” which bemoaned the end of Open Range, has been replaced with nightly news of people fighting to keep neighbors out and views unobstructed.
“…Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”
It seems to be a truism of fences that while they can be used to make good neighbors (I think of the chain link fence keeping in a mean-looking dog I walk by every morning), they can just as likely cause offence. The reasons vary. Sometimes they are petty, personal or private. Sometimes they are imbedded in our social fabric in which we use fencing to exclude, restrict or impede – under the guise of protection and good governance.
The traveling exhibit: Between Fences, curated by Gregory K. Dreicer of Chicken and Egg Public Projects, Inc, focuses on every region of the United States. It contains 5 KIOSKS which will explore fencing materials, and the social and historical impact fencing has had on the fabric of our lives. This is just one of several traveling exhibitions which are part of the Smithsonian’s’ “Museum-on-Main Street” involving a partnership with state humanities councils and rural museums across America. Designed to bring rural Americans one-of-a-kind access to prestigious Smithsonian exhibitions and first-rate educational programs, it is funded by Congress and communities must apply each year to have a traveling exhibition brought to their town. Between Fences is collaboration between the Smithsonian Institute, the Arizona Humanities Council and the local Historical Museum.
As Bill Haak, director of the Historical Museum says, “We won this one!” Since learning of the award last year, Haak and his committee members have been busy preparing for the Exhibit and working to coordinate several local events and exhibits around the arrival of “Fences.” “We are working with several schools and teachers who are quite excited about incorporating the exhibit and its teaching materials into their curriculum.” Students will be asked to write stories, poems and produce artwork relating to fences and the impact on their lives and the Museum will display their works as they come available. In additional there will be several local exhibits showcasing our ranching history, the types of fencing materials used in the area, and photographs from the local archives.
So, be sure to mark your calendar for this one-of-a-kind exhibit! The arrival of Smithsonian’s exhibit “Between Fences”, is bound to do a first rate job of educating, and encouraging us all to think deeper and broader and those things which affect our lives. Like fences.