Crossroads: Change in Rural America


March 4, 2023 – April 14, 2023

In 1900, about 40% of Americans lived in rural areas. By 2010, less than 18% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. In just over a century, massive economic and social changes led to massive growth of America’s urban areas. Yet, less than 10% of the U.S. landmass is considered urban. 

Many Americans assume that rural communities are endangered and hanging on by a thread—suffering from outmigration, ailing schools, and overused land. But that perception is far from true in many areas. Many rural Americans work hard to sustain their communities. Why should revitalizing the rural places left behind matter to those who remain, those who left, and those who will come in the future? All Americans benefit from rural America’s successes. We can learn great things from listening to those stories. There is much more to the story of rural America! 

Despite the massive economic and demographic impacts brought on by these changes, America’s small towns continue to creatively focus on new opportunities for growth and development. Economic innovation and a focus on the cultural facets that make small towns unique, comfortable, and desirable have helped many communities create their own renaissance. The future is bright for much of rural America as small towns embrace the notion that their citizens and their cultural uniqueness are important assets.

Frederick County’s unique location has placed it at the Crossroads of local and national events throughout history. From its use as a place through which nomadic Indigenous peoples traveled to its role as a pre-Revolution gatekeeper to the west, to its prominence as a spot along the national road, to the establishment of inviting hotels and inns for tourists in motorcars, Frederick has seen many people come and go via its roadways. 

Railroads and canals brought innovations in industry to the region and continued over the years to lead the growth and changes to our small towns nestled among the rolling hills. This growth has often at times come with change, resistance, and suppression. 

The exhibit at Rose Hill looks at how our local communities have adapted and changed as a result of the literal crossroads of waterways, roads, and railroads and the figurative crossroads of local and national events. Stories from the inhabitants of Rose Hill, other Frederick County Parks, and our Main Streets will highlight these themes throughout the exhibit while exhibits through the county will highlight additional county stories.

Crossroads: Change in Rural America has been made possible in Frederick, Maryland by Maryland Humanities, Museum on Main Street, and the Rose Hill Museum Council.

Crossroads: Change in Rural America is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

Companion Exhibits

Heritage Frederick

Location: 24 East Church Street, Frederick MD 21701

Wed-Sat 10 to 4 

Visit the second floor Crossroads Companion Exhibit to explore local mainstreet artifacts and stories about industry throughout Frederick County. 

C Burr Artz, Thurmont, and Brunswick Libraries

Mon-Thurs 10-9
Fri-Sat 10-5
Sunday 1-5

Visit the front exhibit cases to explore the Maryland Room’s collection related to Crossroads.


Frederick County Public Libraries

Catoctin Furnace Historical Society

Heritage Frederick

The Delaplaine Arts Center

Frederick Arts Council

Monocacy National Battlefield

Brunswick Heritage Museum

Hood College

Friends of Rural Roads

MD Humanities
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