“The Way We Worked,” from the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service, looks at how the American workplace has evolved over the years and will be on display at Ogden’s Union Station starting Jan. 28.
It features photographs from the National Archives, such as the work of Dorothea Lange, who documented the lives of middle- and lower-class Americans during the Depression, according to Tiffany Cheng, a media specialist from the Smithsonian Institute.
To illustrate where the American work experience is now, the exhibit also includes interviews with a variety of people living today about what their first jobs were like, Cheng said. The exhibit took over two years to put together and has been circulating since 2011, she added.
“There is a strong tradition of an American work ethic,” Cheng said. “We want people to learn more about the diversity of people, ethnicities and talents that keep America running and brought us to where we are today.”
The purpose of the exhibit, according to the Smithsonian website at sites.si.edu, is to “reveal the effects of industrialization, urbanization, immigration, labor unrest, wars and economic depression on ordinary working Americans.”
Those with the Ogden Union Station Foundation and Museums have also prepared an original exhibit that asks similar questions with a local focus to accompany the Smithsonian’s exhibit. The companion exhibit, titled “Weber County Works,” looks at how the economy of Weber County has changed.
“The history of 25th Street is very interesting,” said Holly Andrew, museum and education programs manager for the Union Station Foundation. “It went from being a central hub during the railroad times to having a lot of brothels and speakeasies during the Prohibition era to a time in the '80s where business and community leaders cleaned it up and turned Ogden into a new and vibrant city.”
There will be several events at the station while the exhibits are on display, including family art activity days, panels and workshops. On Feb. 11, Ogden’s poet laureate Brad Roghaar will run a poetry workshop focusing on the themes of the exhibition and on Feb. 13, they will host a storytelling panel in which members of the community are invited to share how their workplace experiences have been affected by their gender, race and other factors. A full list of the events can be found at theunionstation.org/the-way-we-worked.
“We’re here to serve the people of our region by providing them with a cultural education," said Danielle Susi, the Union Station Foundation's volunteer and public programs coordinator. "We want to help them understand the history and culture of where they live.”
The exhibit also raises the question of how American workplaces will continue to change going forward thanks to advances in technology, according to organizers.
“More and more people can become influential through the internet and social media, so I think we’re going to see even more of a movement towards digital content production,” Susi said.
The exhibit is also scheduled to be at five other museums across the state this year, according to utahhumanities.org. From March 25 to May 13, it's scheduled to be on display at the Hyrum City Museum, 50 W. Main St., Hyrum, and from May 20 to July 8, it will be at Museum of the San Rafael, 70 N. 100 East, Castle Dale. From July 15 to Sept. 9, it's scheduled to be at the Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum, 50 W. Capital Ave, Fillmore, and from Sept. 16 to Nov. 4, Silver Reef Museum, 1903 Wells Fargo Road, Leeds, is scheduled to host the exhbit. The final stop in Utah is expected to be at the Park City Museum, 528 Main St., Park City, Nov. 11 to Jan. 15, 2018.
If you go …
What: Smithsonian Institution's “The Way We Worked” and Union Station's "Weber County Works"
When: Jan. 28-March 18
Where: Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave., Ogden
How much: Free