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Smithsonian chooses Historical Museum as “Museum on Main Street”

The Smithsonian in Washington is confirming something area residents have known all along—the Gila County Historical Museum is special.

So special, in fact, the Smithsonian chose the Museum in Globe for its pilot project, known as “Museum on Main Street” (MoMS), to develop a unique humanities-based exhibition about Americans at work.

The Museum is one of only 10 the Smithsonian so honored in the United States, as well as the only one west of the Mississippi, in 2020.

From 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at 1330 N. Broad Street, in Globe, the Museum is holding two celebrations in one—the Mine Rescue Station’s centennial as well as the kickoff of the Smithsonian’s year-long pilot project.

The evening will include a ribbon cutting, a special exhibit on mining and the station’s history, tours, door prizes and refreshments.

As for the exhibition, the Smithsonian provides the curatorial framework to be fleshed out using local historical images, art and artifacts, video clips and oral histories.

The Museum’s volunteers see the project as a hands-on opportunity to learn about the Smithsonian’s exhibition development process.

Project Chairman Mary Anne Moreno calls the Smithsonian staff “past masters of the hook and then the meat,” organizing displays that will appeal to the widest possible audience. The Museum hopes to draw in young people as well as those with historical memory of the area. 

According to the Smithsonian, the Museum’s completed exhibition will “bring to light the who, what, where, why and how of the Globe-Miami-San Carlos community at work, and how it fits within the nation’s history.” By tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, the exhibition explores the places Americans work and how work became such a central element in American culture.

Museum Board President Vernon Perry said, “From our earliest days, the miners and settlers who came to southern Gila County came here to work and work hard—scraping a livelihood from the mountains, carving homes and businesses from the harsh desert, farming and raising cattle to feed the workers and craftsmen, building Roosevelt Dam to bring water to communities, engineering roads and railroads to connect our goods with the world and providing strategic minerals and materials to support the United States’ war efforts and industrialization.”

The exhibition’s 12-month series of rotating designs, features and celebrations, will feature the unique nature of the community, its workers, trades, businesses, industries and agriculture.

The initial exhibit, simply known as “WORK,” will open in the Museum’s main lobby before moving to the Freeport Room for “Where We Worked” and the living room for “How We Worked,” the history room for “Who Works” and, finally, “Why We Work,” in the cultural history hallway. The exhibits will change every six weeks.

Usually, when people think of Globe-Miami, they think about mining—historically the area’s dominant industry. 

However, as Moreno points out, it is not just about the mines.

There were many businesses and industries that supported the mines and the mine workers and their families—such as ranches, vegetable gardens, dairies, ice plants, bars, churches, retail stores, trading posts, hardware (general) stores, railroad workers, machine shops, restaurants, boarding houses and hotels.

There was also law enforcement and first responders, such as the Mine Rescue Station staff.

The signage the Smithsonian requires will be augmented by photos enlarged from the extensive files in the Museum’s archives and numerous publications.

While Museum Director Sheldon Miller gives much credit to Moreno for submitting the application that got the Smithsonian’s attention, Moreno points out that both Globe’s Museum and Miami’s Bullion Plaza have hosted several Smithsonian exhibits in the past, such as last year’s “WaterWays in Arizona.” 

“The fact that we have done this successfully in the past is as compelling as anything we wrote,” she said. “Of course, it does not hurt to have someone like Sheldon to lead us on. For him, there is not such a thing as an insurmountable challenge. He just says, ‘We’ll fix it.’”

About both museums Moreno says, “We have in this community two of the most unique museums in the state.”



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