“[Farming] is like any other part of life, if you don’t change, you don’t survive” explained Bill Lenschow, a Centennial farmer in DeKalb County. This idea is explored in the new traveling Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” The DeKalb County History Center is partnering with the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, in cooperation with the Illinois Humanities, to host “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.” The exhibit will be here for SIX WEEKS ONLY and runs from May 11 to June 22, 2019. Do not miss out on this exciting look into the past!
The DeKalb County History Center is the only stop for the “Crossroads” exhibit in Northern Illinois. This exhibit examines how rural American communities changed in the 20th century. Much of the United States landscape remains rural, with only 3.5% of the landmass considered urban. Since 1900, the percentage of Americans living in rural areas dropped from 60% to 17%. This exhibition looks at that remarkable societal change and how rural Americans responded. Engaging in political and community discussions are an important part of our cultural fabric. Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by these changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development.
Not only will visitors enjoy a Smithsonian exhibit in Sycamore, Illinois, they will also have the opportunity to check out the History Center’s brand-new facility. The new space will include a 1,200 square foot exhibit space, the Joiner History Room, multi-purpose room, and a large area for collection storage. The History Center is also committed to working with the 20 plus local historical organization. Many of these groups are loaning artifacts for the display as well as creating special exhibits or hosting programs at their location. Michelle Donahoe, the History Center’s Executive Director explained, “This grand opening exhibit is the perfect way to celebrate the strengths of small museums in the county and demonstrate the impact of what this solid partnership will bring to our community.” Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Crossroads” will serve as a community meeting place for conversations about how rural America has changed. Reflecting the spirit of collaboration – the county is celebrating their first “DeKalb County Museum Day” with many history organizations planning to be open all of the same date.

The Dekalb County History Center and the surrounding community was chosen by the Illinois Humanities to host “Crossroads” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The History Center was one of only six organizations to host this exhibit and the only one in Northern Illinois. To learn more about “Crossroads” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit www.museumonmainstreet.org.
The History Center was also one of sixteen organizations in the country to receive a grant called “Stories: YES,” which provides fund for students to create video interviews related to the Museum on Main Street project. Sycamore, Hinckley, and DeKalb High School students have done research, conducted and recorded interviews. Their edited work will be incorporated into the display and on the Smithsonian Stories: YES website.
For more information about the DeKalb County History Center, related program, or the exhibit call 815-895-5762 or visit dekalbcountyhistory.org. They are located at 1730 North Main Street, in Sycamore. Admission is free for members and children under 14, adults are $5 ($4 for groups of ten or more). Group tours are welcome. Parking is free.