The Way We Worked Athens: The Traveling Smithsonian Comes To Town

9-5-2014 12-23-53 PMOne of the definitions of the term “a feather in your cap” is “any laudable success or achievement by an individual that may help that person in the future.” It has taken the work of many individuals in Athens/Limestone and Madison Counties, but our town has been selected by the venerable Smithsonian Museum/National Archives/Alabama Humanities Foundation/”Museum On Main Street” joint venture to be one of only six cities in Alabama to host the traveling exhibit. In a word, this is huge. We are blessed indeed to have an installation of this caliber coming to our city.

The name of the exhibit is “The Way We Worked Athens,” and beginning September 20th, the Limestone County Event Center will be its home for six weeks. The intent of the exhibit is to not only examine tools, implements, and workspaces, as important as they are, but to take a deeper look at the philosophy of work. By that I mean how the way we worked then and now affects our souls, both as individuals and our culture.

The time frame is the past 200 years, and there will be several categories of work to be examined and explored. They are:
1. Farming and homemaking-the people who came here, both slave and free, to work the earth and build their families
2. Local business and healthcare-everything from the former tavern/trading post/inn on Jefferson, to businesses on the Square, to the first healthcare facilities up to our present hospital complex
3. Transportation and Industry- they came on foot, on horseback, by train, mule, or boat, and now via the highway system, and they brought the jobs with them
4. Public Service-Soldiers, politicians, first responders of all kinds, and those who make and enforce the law
5. Faith and education-those who developed our minds and spirits, as well as those of our future leaders

9-5-2014 12-24-14 PMThe Limestone County Archives is also still accepting artifacts to “flesh out” our part of making the museum. Anything that you choose to loan and is chosen for the exhibit will be carefully catalogued. In addition, there is going to be a kickoff event at the Limestone County Event Center on September 20th from 10am to 5pm. The Archives is accepting applications to be a vendor, artisan demonstrator, or docent for both the kick off as well as the 6 week exhibit until September 13th. The possibilities are nearly endless, from hand cranking ice cream to a robotics demonstration. Local authors are also welcome. For more information on donating for or participating in the kick off or the exhibit, contact Rebekah Davis, Director, Limestone County Archives, at 256-233-6404, or by email at

For the Smithsonian’s part, there will be 5 kiosks set up throughout the installation, with “our part” blended in. There will also be “the Box,” which looks like an old photo booth that when you were a kid, you paid a quarter and got 4 black and white photos of you and your friends mugging it up. Instead, “the Box” is an opportunity to film your family’s story. There are several questions to respond to in regard to the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your family, and they will be preserved as part of our permanent historical record. I have already seen the film clips of Jerry Barksdale, Alice Rogers, Robert Malone and Buzz Estes, among others, and they would be worth the price of admission if there was one.

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In addition, if you choose, there will be an old fashioned, still functioning time card machine and specially designed “time cards” upon which you can punch in when you enter the exhibit, punch out when you leave, and take a stub as a souvenir. There are also some circa 1910 photos of the entrance to Dr. Hoffman’s book store on the Square that are going to be reproduced into large panels, and will be placed over the doors of the Limestone County Event Center. They actually make it look like you are stepping through time.

Speaking of time, the timing of the event is set in our “festival season” by design. You can go to Grease, Fiddler’s, or Storyteller’s, and then head on over to the Event Center and not spend a dime to get in. Or you can go again and again to The Way We Worked Athens, and explore with depth who we were as working folks, how we are now, and where we are going. Either way, you are in for a real treat.

9-5-2014 12-24-30 PMThe Way We Worked Athens
September 20th through November 8th, 2014
Tour hours: Monday through Saturday, 10-5
Note: Groups of 10 or more should schedule a tour by calling Misti at 205-222-5408 or e-mailing

Location: Limestone County Event Center, 114 Pryor Street Athens, AL 35611

For updates, check us out on Facebook at The Way We Worked Athens
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner