July-August 2011 | THE GREAT DIVIDE




The Smithsonian’s Between Fences exhibit comes to Snow Hill during July and August as part of a six-stop, statewide tour

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute

The Julia A. Purnell Museum in Snow Hill has been chosen by the Maryland Humanities Council to be among the host sites of Between Fences, a touring exhibition under the aegis of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Museum on Main Street” project. The exhibit began making the rounds of its six-stop tour through Maryland in September 2010 but will be exclusively on display at the Snow Hill branch of the Worcester County Library from July 1 through August 21.

Curated by Gregory K. Dreicer of Chicken and Egg Public Projects, Inc., Between Fences examines every region of the United States. Its subjects include the defining of home, farm and factory; the settling of the United States; and the making of fences. It also takes a look at human relationships on an expanding scale: neighbor versus neighbor, gated communities, and the Mexican and Canadian borders of the U.S.

The exhibit tells American stories through diverse types of fences. The worm fence, for example, was one of the most widely built types in American history, having attracted the attention of scores of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century stateside visitors. Its unique design is thought to have contributed to international understanding of American
society. The picket fence, meanwhile, plays an iconic role in U.S. culture for its quintessential representation of the American suburban homestead.

Fought through the twisted-metal maze of barbed-wire fences, battles between farmers and ranchers raged as flashpoints in the nationwide debate over enclosure and access to land and resources, while the chain-link fence has emerged as the enclosure of choice for schools, playgrounds, factories and often houses.

Through a selection of artifacts, photographs and illustrations, Between Fences explores the multiple meanings of this everyday symbol of civilization. A fence conveys information not only about the people who built it but also how they view and use their property and the nature of their relations with their neighbors. Ultimately, they act as testament to how we view our communities and even our country.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring Between Fences to our area,” said Claire Otterbein, director of the Julia A. Purnell Museum. “It allows us the opportunity to explore this fascinating aspect of our own region’s history, and we hope that it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of our community.”
Otterbein added that to the best of her knowledge, it is the first time a Smithsonian exhibit or its equivalent has ever made a stop in Snow Hill.

A partnership of the Smithsonian, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and state humanities councils nationwide, “Museum on Main Street” brings exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations nationwide and seeks to support small-town museums as bastions of local culture and history. The project is funded by the U.S. Congress.

For more information, call 410-632-0515 or visit online at www.purnellmuseum.com.

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