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The Way We Worked

Humanities Tennessee presents The Way We Worked, a Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibit tour project in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's Traveling Exhibition Service. The Way We Worked uses large-scale images, audio/video recordings, and artifacts to explore the history and meaning of work in American society across regions and over time. Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives, The Way We Workedexplores how work became a central element in American culture by tracing the changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.

Past events, from industrialization to desegregation to tech breakthroughs, have dramatically altered where and how we work--and who works.  From Rosie the Riveter to current pay equity debates, from historic cycles of local boom and bust to postindustrial underemployment, work has always been central. 

Work remains an ever-present challenge, so basic to our personal identity and collective understanding that it often prevents us from thinking critically about its nature and our potential to shape its meaning beyond material benefit.  How does the current landscape of work reflect the history that shaped it?

The Way We Worked offers opportunities for exhibit hosts to link local history and current issues to launch a variety of related programs such as companion exhibits, youth programs, book/film discussions, or other public conversations. The project enables audiences to probe challenging, new community perspectives, reflect on the roots of work and employment issues that currently define Tennessee's urban neighborhoods and consider what the future of work will look like. How does your neighborhood work?

The exhibit tours Tennessee April 11-July 19, 2015, at the following locations:

April 11-May 2, 2015
Johnson City Public Library, Johnson City

Accompanying Events: 

  • Wednesday, April 15, 6:30 -8:00 PM
    “The Way We Worked in the Library” presented by Gail Campbell
  • Thursday, April 23, 6:30 – 8:00 PM
    “Forest, Farm and Factory: Transforming Toil and Time in the Tri-Cities” presented by Dr. Tom Lee
  • Monday, April 27, 7:00 – 8:00 PM
    “History of Railroads” presented by Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society
  • Wednesday, April 29, 6:30 -8:00 PM
    “Meet Rosie’s Mother” presented by Tabetha Garman
  • Friday, May 1, 1:00 – 2:30 PM
    “The Things We Worked With” presented by Jeremy Cobb

May 9-June 13, 2015
Martha O'Bryan Center, Nashville

Accompanying events:

  • Saturdays, May 9-June 13, 11-3pm; Mondays, May 11-June 8, 4-5pm, or by appointment Guided Exhibit Tours
  • Saturday, May 9th, 1pm "Nashville DocuJournal," film screening/discussion with filmmakers
  • Fridays, May 15-June 12 Jewelry-making with Piece of Love artist-entrepreneurs
  • Thursday, June 4, 6pm "The Ballad of Shovels & Rope," film screening/discussion with filmmakers

June 20-July 19, 2015
green|spaces, Chattanooga


This tour of The Way We Worked is the first Museum on Main Street exhibit to tour urban areas exclusively.  Humanities Tenneseee is pleased to pilot this new approach in our state, and to share our experience at the national level.

For more information please contact: Melissa Davis,, or Paul McCoy, or call 615-770-0006.