National Museum of American History Announces Initiative to Preserve Agricultural Heritage and Document Farm Innovation

     National Museum of American History Announces Initiative to Preserve
              Agricultural Heritage and Document Farm Innovation

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On National Agriculture
Day, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is unveiling a new
website where the public can upload stories about technologies and innovation
that have changed their work lives in agriculture—stories about precision
farming, food-borne illness tracking, environmental concerns, government
practices, irrigation, biotechnology and hybrid seeds.

This spring, the museum is launching the Agricultural Innovation and Heritage
Archive, reaching out to farmers, ranchers and American agri-business to
preserve America's agricultural heritage and build a collection that reflects
modern agricultural practices. Curators are seeking stories, photographs and
ephemera to record and preserve the innovations and experiences of farming and
ranching. For details and to participate, the public may visit
http://americanenterprise.si.edu.

As an example of the agriculture stories the Smithsonian is seeking, the
museum will accept a donation of road signs related to no-till production and
organic farming from Jim Rapp, a corn and soybean farmer from Princeton, Ill.

"The story of agriculture is important and complex," said John Gray, director
of the museum. "In Jefferson's time, 96 percent of Americans were farmers;
today, that number is less than 2 percent. Despite this drop, productivity has
skyrocketed and agriculture has evolved into a technology-driven profession
with the cab of a tractor akin to a traditional CEO's office."

This new collection of stories, photos and objects will play a role in the
"American Enterprise" exhibition, an 8,000-square-foot multimedia experience
that will immerse visitors in the dramatic arc of the nation's story, focusing
on the role of business and innovation in the United States from the mid-1700s
to the present. The exhibition is scheduled to open in May 2015.

The American Enterprise project budget is $20 million which includes the
exhibition, a virtual exhibition on the Web, a rich array of programs and
demonstrations as well as an endowment for a Curator of American Business.
Recent gifts in support of the "American Enterprise" exhibition, include a $2
million gift from Monsanto Company and a $1 million gift from the United
Soybean Board.

"American agriculture has gone through a tremendous transformation in the last
seven decades, becoming a high-tech industry, deeply affecting not just
farmers themselves but every American and the American experience in general,"
said Peter Liebhold, curator and chair, Division of Work and Industry.

The exhibition will tell the story of the nation's business, centering on
themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and common good with examples
drawn from five areas: agriculture, consumer finance, information
technology/communication, manufacturing and retail/service. Chronological in
organization, "American Enterprise" will use objects, graphics and
interactives to examine how the United States moved from a small dependent
nation to one of the world's most vibrant and trend-setting economies.

Visitors will explore the development of American agriculture through objects
such as Eli Whitney's cotton gin, a 1920s Fordson tractor and an Agacetus gene
gun, which represent machines and innovation that increased productivity and
science that gave insight to the genetic structure of plants. Agriculture has
employed science and technology to dramatically increase production and choice
while lowering prices, but these changes have also altered the experience of
farmers and the public in unexpected ways.

The initial objects donated to the Agricultural Innovation and Heritage
Archive project came from Tennessee Farm Bureau member Pat Campbell, of
Cleburne Jersey Farm, a multigenerational dairy farm founded in the 1870s in
Spring Hill, Tenn. Campbell donated a selection of photographs, a computer cow
tag and reader unit to show the change in dairying from a hand-labor intensive
process to a modern computer-run operation as well as his personal
recollections about how changing technology has altered his work life and has
led to greater efficiency and safety.

The National Museum of American History is currently renovating its West
exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For
more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located
at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to
5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information,
the public may call (202) 633-1000.

SOURCE Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Contact: Valeska Hilbig +1-202-633-3129; hilbigv@si.edu, Melinda Machado
+1-202-633-3129; machadom@si.edu
 
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