Barn Again! Put Small Museums, Rural Communities in the Spotlight

This installment of 40 Years of Washington Stories looks at the traveling exhibit Barn Again!, which brought discussions about history and culture to rural museums around the state.

The team that put together the Clymer Museum's local component for the Barn Again! exhibit, which traveled across Washington as part of the Smithsonian Institute's Traveling Exhibit Service.

The team that put together the Clymer Museum’s local component for the Barn Again! exhibit, which traveled across Washington as part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Traveling Exhibit Service.

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

With Barn Again!, the Smithsonian Institute and Humanities Washington teamed up with small-scale museums throughout Washington to celebrate the history and culture of the structures.

As part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Traveling Exhibit Service, Barn Again! was composed of two parts. The first, a traveling exhibit that explored the development of the barn as it corresponded to American history, was shipped from the Smithsonian to six Washington museums. The second part of the exhibit was unique to each of the community museums that Humanities Washington selected to participate in the program. Each of these museums received money and training to develop a local addition to the exhibit.

The Clymer Museum of Art in Kittitas County, for example, put together a photo exhibit of barns across Kittitas, art classes and quilting raffles related to barns, and held a progressive dinner that moved from barn to barn across the county to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. The museum reported a 58% increase in attendance during the time that Barn Again! was in place. This included group of visitors from more rural parts of the county who had not previously visited the museum.

Barn Again! united the Smithsonian’s professional exhibits with local components that showcased the host area’s history. This combination encouraged — and greatly increased — attendance at these small-scale museums, and stimulated a renewed interest in regional history among the visitors. The latest on Humanities Washington’s traveling exhibit program can be found here.

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