On National Agriculture Day, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is unveiling a new website where the public can upload stories about technologies and innovation that have changed their work lives in agriculture—stories about precision farming, food-borne illness tracking, environmental concerns, government practices, irrigation, biotechnology and hybrid seeds.
This spring, the museum is launching the Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive, reaching out to farmers, ranchers and American agri-business to preserve America's agricultural heritage and build a collection that reflects modern agricultural practices. Curators are seeking stories, photographs and ephemera to record and preserve the innovations and experiences of farming and ranching.
As an example of the agriculture stories the Smithsonian is seeking, the museum will accept a donation of road signs related to no-till production and organic farming from Jim Rapp, a corn and soybean farmer from Princeton, Ill.
"The story of agriculture is important and complex," said John Gray, director of the museum. "In Jefferson's time, 96% of Americans were farmers; today, that number is less than 2%. Despite this drop, productivity has skyrocketed and agriculture has evolved into a technology-driven profession with the cab of a tractor akin to a traditional CEO's office."
This new collection of stories, photos and objects will play a role in the "American Enterprise" exhibition, an 8,000-square-foot multimedia experience that will immerse visitors in the dramatic arc of the nation's story, focusing on the role of business and innovation in the United States from the mid-1700s to the present. The exhibition is scheduled to open in May 2015.
The American Enterprise project budget is $20 million which includes the exhibition, a virtual exhibition on the Web, a rich array of programs and demonstrations as well as an endowment for a Curator of American Business. Recent gifts in support of the "American Enterprise" exhibition, include a $2 million gift from Monsanto Company and a $1 million gift from the United Soybean Board.