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Museum L-A to unveil “The Way We Worked”

Switchboard operators direct overseas calls in December of 1943.

Museum L-A will host a free opening reception to unveil a new exhibition exploring America’s work history on Friday, February 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. “The Way We Worked” is a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit depicting how the changing nature of work has informed American ideas about history, culture and identity.

Adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration, the exhibition explores how work has become a central element in American culture. It traces the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and increasing use of technology.

The exhibition draws from the Archives’ rich collections, including historical photographs, archival accounts of workers, film, audio and interactive components, to tell the compelling story of how work impacts our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities.

“The Way We Worked fits in perfectly with what we’ve been doing,” said Museum L-A Executive Director Rachel Desgrosseilliers. “Museum L-A has been gathering and sharing the stories of local industry and workers. This exhibit will provide a national perspective, not only on how and where we worked, but also on workplace conflict and issues. We hope that it will inspire people to think about the dignity that comes with working and then become even more involved in the civic and cultural life of our community.”

The local community will be connected to the exhibit through the display of images and artifacts from local industries, such as banking, journalism, medicine, music and law. These objects will relate the types of work, dress codes, tools and technology in Lewiston-Auburn to broader national themes. An “interactive wall” will invite members of the community to bring in pictures and descriptions of their work, past or present. Children will be invited to participate by contributing materials to show how their parents and grandparents worked.

The museum also plans to relate this new exhibit to its ongoing three-year exhibit series, “The Power of Music,” by showcasing the importance of the music industry to Lewiston-Auburn. One prominent local figure, Carroll Poulin, will be featured in an upcoming addition to the exhibit. Poulin, who operated Carroll’s Music Store for many years, first in Auburn, then in Lewiston, repaired instruments, taught generations of youngsters and helped establish many school bands. Today, at age 97, he continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of the local music scene. In preparation for this project, Museum L/A is asking all of Poulin’s former music students to contact them 333-3881 or info@museumla.org.

The Museum’s hosting of The Way We Worked is made possible through grants from Historic New England and the Maine Humanities Council. Additional local support is being provided by Proctor and Gamble and Center Street Dental. The exhibit will be on display through May 4.

Located in the historic Bates Mill at 35 Canal Street in Lewiston, Museum L-A is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 333-3881 or see www.museumla.org.

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