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We are the first stop in Kansas for the “Smithsonian Crossroads: Change in Rural America Exhibit.” The “Crossroads” Kansas tour is sponsored by Humanities Kansas in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. The Smithsonian's traveling exhibit will be housed in the Dale P. Creitz Recital Hall from August 29 - October 11, 2020. Admission is free.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” offers small towns a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition will prompt discussions about what happened when America’s rural population became a minority of the country’s population and the ripple effects that occurred. The exhibit covers themes such as: Identity, Land, Community, Persistence and Managing Change with photographs, hands-on activities, and audio and video clips provided by the Smithsonian in the “Crossroads” exhibition to tell the history and culture of local rural life in Kansas and spark conversations about our state’s future.

“Through a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, Humanities Kansas is able to bring the resources of the nation’s premier cultural institution to Kansas,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director of Humanities Kansas. “The six communities were selected because of the inspired plans provided by local organizations to use the national exhibition as a springboard to explore local stories of innovation and adaptation.”

A local companion exhibit has been established and will be housed in the Mary L. Martin Art Gallery, “Allen County: From Trails to Rails to Highways and Back.” This narrative documents life in Allen County through five generations of the Wilson family, a fictional family whose progress and challenges echo those of our communities. Working with the local newspaper and the writings of local historian, Larry Manes, this diary will be printed in the format of a special newspaper section in the proceeding weeks of the exhibit opening, along with extra prints to be available at the exhibition. The exhibition layout will be in the chronological order of the diary. Certain passages highlighted in the printing will be displayed on the walls with surrounding supportive photographs, articles, and artifacts. The diary writings take patrons through the many crossroads experienced throughout Allen County’s history and will invite the viewing patron to imagine what will be the next chapter for the Wilson family as the next generations come to their crossroads. This exhibit, was a collaborative effort by the Allen County Historical Society, Bowlus Fine Arts Center, Thrive Allen County, Iola Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Bowlus, and the Iola Register.

We invite you to come to the Bowlus to explore the many crossroads experienced throughout Allen County’s history! Discover your community’s history and the defining moments that make our corner of Kansas a special place. The exhibit features dozens of photos and items publicly displayed for the very first time!

Want to see how other communities are doing their exhibits? The five other Kansas communities chosen include:  Alma, Independence, Greensburg, North Newton, and Norton. In addition to the six sites hosting the Smithsonian, ten communities are creating their own exhibitions and programming to explore what it means to live rural in the 21st century, the relationship between rural, suburban, and urban, and the progress and persistence needed by communities of all sizes to thrive. Participating communities include Colby, Council Grove, Dodge City, El Dorado, Ellinwood, Hays, Lebanon, Olathe, Onaga, and Satanta.

Humanities Kansas sponsors the “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” initiative in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, a one-of-a-kind cultural project that serves small towns and residents of rural communities. To learn more about the “Crossroads” statewide tour visit

  • The Iola Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism is housed inside our building on the office level on the east side. It can be accessed through the east entrance.