Everyday meals and celebrations across America often have their roots in historical, regional and social traditions. Western Maryland is a rich source of those traditions, and a series of activities that are planned or being planned for the coming summer and fall are designed to identify and preserve that part of regional culture. These events will culminate in a local showing of “Key Ingredients: America by Food,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition that will be on view at Frostburg State University’s Compton Science Center Exploratorium from Sept. 28 to Nov. 10.
FSU and the surrounding community have been expressly chosen by the Maryland Humanities Council and the Smithsonian Institution to host “Key Ingredients” as part of the Museum on Main Street project – a national/state partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations.
“This rich topic allows us to tackle everything from food chemistry and edible gardening workshops to cultural celebrations. Determining what goes on our activity menu is going to be really challenging. We hope that regional residents will let us know what types of events and activities they’d like to see planned around this theme,” said FSU Folklorist Kara Rogers Thomas. Two companion pieces are already in process.
A companion exhibit will be the result of a photography contest that will take place during the Garrett County Agricultural Fair in August. Photographers are invited to enter photographs that will help showcase Mountain Maryland’s unique and diverse food heritage, including animal husbandry and hunting and gathering traditions, as well as agriculture. Photographs that pertain to food procurement, production, processing, distribution, and consumption are particularly encouraged. The winning images will be exhibited alongside the Smithsonian’s “Key Ingredients: America by Food” display in Frostburg in the fall. The programming committee plans on hosting and co-producing several more events during the exhibition’s stay at FSU this autumn.
Through a selection of artifacts, photographs and illustrations, “Key Ingredients” examines how culture, ethnicity, landscape and tradition influence the foods and flavors we enjoy. The exhibition looks at the evolution of the American kitchen and how food industries have responded to the technological innovations that have enabled Americans to choose an ever-wider variety of frozen, prepared and fresh foods.
An interactive Web site, www.keyingredients.org, has been developed in conjunction with the exhibition. The site invites people across the country to share their family recipes and food stories, learn about other food traditions and identify favorite small town eateries. Web site information on Western Maryland is currently in the development stage. Exhibition organizers hope to use this Web site to provide extensive information about the local area’s food traditions.
“We are incredibly pleased to be able to host such an intriguing exhibition. Food is something that we often take for granted in our society. This exhibition encourages us to think seriously about the pivotal role food plays in our own culture,” Rogers Thomas said.
A regional “Key Ingredients” programming committee includes local educators, farmers, agricultural specialists, historians, economic development officials, nutritionists, and chefs. That committee is currently in the processing of raising funds to support a wide range of food-related programming.
“Key Ingredients provides a engaging — and fun — way to explore the ways in which the humanities are part of our everyday lives and how the foods we eat vary from region to region,” said Peggy Burke, Executive Director of the Maryland Humanities Council. “One of the goals for this program is to build regional partnerships, and we are excited to work with Frostburg State University and Mountain Maryland to help develop local exhibitions and public programs to compliment the Smithsonian exhibition.”
“Key Ingredients” is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation and local host institutions. To learn more about “Key Ingredients” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit www.museumonmainstreet.org. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.
To learn more, visit www.sites.si.edu, www.mdhc.org, or contact Rogers Thomas at FSU at 301-687-3124. FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call (301) 687-4102, TDD (301) 687-7955.