The Way We Worked

A man on boat harvesting oysters using hand tongs, ca. 1965.

September 15 – November 3, 2017
SU Art Galleries Downtown

Grand Opening & Reception:  3rd Friday, September 15, 4:30-8pm

4:30pm: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

5:45-6:30pm: Shannon Murray Concert on the 3rd Friday Main Stage, Downtown Plaza

5-8pm: Opening Reception, featuring in-gallery Broom making demo presented by Furnacetown Living Heritage Museum


About the Exhibition:  Workers are the backbone of American society. Known for their strong work ethic, Americans invest themselves physically, emotionally, and intellectually in their work.

American jobs are as diverse as the American workforce. The opportunity provided by work is central to the American dream and has attracted people to better lives in America. With strength, ingenuity, creativity, thoughtfulness, and heroics, American workers keep our economy and our society up and running.

This comprehensive exhibition looks at Labor from many viewpoints. At the center of the exhibition is the Smithsonian Traveling exhibition, The Way We Worked. Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives, it exlores how work became a central element in American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.  This portion of the exhibition is part of the Musuem on Main Street program and draws from the Archives’ rich collections to tell this compelling story.

Salisbury University’s Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture expands the conversation with an exhibition focused on local industries while contemporary artists Cat Mazza, Curtis Woody, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles add diverse perspectives with artworks that depict garment industry workers, slaves, and sanitation workers. A selection of the late Philip McMartin ’s woodcut prints of local watermen are also featured in the exhibition. Singer songwriter Shannon Murray offers performances of People’s Music, a project that preserves working class history in story and song. Dr. Cyndi Byrd, Director of the Julia Purnell Museum gives a talk on the significance of  women’s domestic labor and fiber arts and Jackson Medel, Curator and Folklorist at the Ward Museum also gives a talk. The Furnacetown Living Hertage Museum presents demonstrations of pre-industrial labor practices such as broom making, spinning and weaving.

A group of people observe as a crop is being picked by a vegetable harvester, c. 1950.


Additional Special Events:

September 21:  4:30pm, Discover SU tour, Downtown Gallery

October 14:  4pm, Lecture by Jackson Medel, Curator and Folklorist,  Ward Museum, Downtown Gallery

October 20:  4pm, Lecture by Cyndi Byrd Executive Director, Julia A. Purnell Museum, Downtown Gallery

October 20:  5-8pm 3rd Friday Reception

October 26:  5:30pm, Cat Mazza Artist Talk, Downtown Gallery

The Way We Worked is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation and local host institutions. To learn more about “The Way We Worked” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. This final stop on the Maryland tour of The Way We Worked is sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council, The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, and Salisbury University. Our community partners include the City of Salisbury, The Nabb Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum, The Julia A. Purnell Museum and The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.




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