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Smithsonian sets up shop in Rogers City

September 13, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ROGERS CITY - A Smithsonian Institution exhibition about the many ways Americans make a living and what it says about them opens Saturday at the Presque Isle County Historical Museum.

"The Way We Worked" will make its first stop in Michigan at the Presque Isle County Historical Museum's annex in Rogers City, museum Executive Director Mark Thompson said. It will highlight an array of careers of the past and present using photographs from the National Archives, as well as workplace issues and how jobs have changed over the years. On Oct. 3, the museum will open a photographic archive showing people at work in Presque Isle County. The exhibition will be at the museum through Oct. 28.

The exhibition will be open from noon until 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, Thompson said. Admission is free.

Article Photos

News Photo by Jordan Travis
Terri Cobb, Museum on Main Street registrar, puts a panel of photographs in place at the Presque Isle County Historical Museum annex as volunteer Kathy Thompson watches. Cobb trained volunteers and exhibition coordinators on how to assemble “The Way We Worked,” opening Saturday at the museum annex.

Terri Cobb, Museum on Main Street registrar, said the topic of jobs is one of national importance, both in terms of its economy and its culture.

"America has a fabulous work history," she said. "Work is so important to who we are as Americans."

This history is explored through photographs, props and objects. Men and women are pictured doing everything from making sausages to mining coal, from setting up wind turbines to serving ice cream. Nearby are photographs of limestone quarry operations at Calcite.

Once open, "The Way We Worked" should have a wide appeal, Thompson said.

"One nice thing about this is that work is a universal experience," he said. "It doesn't matter if you were a woman working at home, a man working in a factory or a pilot flying during wartime. It's an experience everyone has."

On Thursday, Cobb instructed a group of volunteers and exhibit coordinators from five other host sites in the state on how to assemble the exhibition. Once it's set up, she'll train museum staff and volunteers in a variety of topics, including promotion.

Along with pictures, text and video, viewers can also call a number for more information on the exhibition's topics, Thompson said. After punching in a topic code, listeners hear a pre-recorded message. Among the messages are three contributions from local residents. In one, Ron Horrocks tells of how German and Polish farmers often worked as lumberjacks after immigrating to Northeast Michigan.

The museum will also open "The Way We Worked in Presque Isle County in 2012," a photographic archive showing local residents doing their jobs, Thompson said. The archive was made with a $1,500 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, a nonprofit organization coordinating the exhibition's tour within the state. The public radio station WCMU sponsored the project, as did local restaurant owners Dave and Michelle Glenn.

"Some of the work shown in these pictures isn't going to exist 50 years from now," he said.

This local contribution is part of why the Presque Isle County Historical Museum was chosen as a host site, Thompson said. Another is the tie-in to the Calcite Centennial celebration.

"We require each community to create a local exhibition to bring the national story to the local level and make it personal," Cobb said. "They've done a fabulous job of it."

After leaving Rogers City, libraries or museums in Clare, Dowagiac, Escanaba, Hart and Hartland will host the exhibition, according to the Museum on Main Street website.

For more information, visit Museum on Main Street, part of the Smithsonian Institution's Traveling Exhibition Service, can be found at

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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