"American agriculture has gone through a tremendous transformation in the last seven decades, becoming a high-tech industry, deeply affecting not just farmers themselves but every American and the American experience in general," said Peter Liebhold, curator and chair, Division of Work and Industry.
The exhibition will tell the story of the nation's business, centering on themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and common good with examples drawn from five areas: agriculture, consumer finance, information technology/communication, manufacturing and retail/service. Chronological in organization, "American Enterprise" will use objects, graphics and interactives to examine how the United States moved from a small dependent nation to one of the world's most vibrant and trend-setting economies.
Visitors will explore the development of American agriculture through objects such as Eli Whitney's cotton gin, a 1920s Fordson tractor and an Agacetus gene gun, which represent machines and innovation that increased productivity and science that gave insight to the genetic structure of plants. Agriculture has employed science and technology to dramatically increase production and choice while lowering prices, but these changes have also altered the experience of farmers and the public in unexpected ways.
The initial objects donated to the Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive project came from Tennessee Farm Bureau member Pat Campbell, of Cleburne Jersey Farm, a multigenerational dairy farm founded in the 1870s in Spring Hill, Tenn. Campbell donated a selection of photographs, a computer cow tag and reader unit to show the change in dairying from a hand-labor intensive process to a modern computer-run operation as well as his personal recollections about how changing technology has altered his work life and has led to greater efficiency and safety.
The National Museum of American History is currently renovating its West exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture. For more information, visit www.americanhistory.si.edu.