It took two years, but the Wake Forest Historical Museum finally has its turn to host a traveling Smithsonian exhibit.
The museum will host “Hometown Teams,” a history of American sports curated by the Smithsonian Institution, until May 31.
The exhibit is complemented by the museum’s own display about sports in Wake Forest. The museum had a breadth of information from local high schools and Wake Forest University before it relocated to Winston-Salem, said Jennifer Smart, the museum’s assistant director.
“The Smithsonian wants you to relate it to what it means for your home community,” Smart said.
The 800-square-foot Smithsonian exhibit has interactive features, photos and artifacts that tell the story of American sports from a national perspective.
Smart and her staff pulled other items, such as photos and old uniforms, to provide a more localized perspective.
The exhibit officially opened earlier this month. It took two years for the museum to go through the application and planning process, Smart said.
Wake Forest got a chance to host the exhibit through the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, which shares Smithsonian exhibits with communities.
“It brings the Smithsonian to the towns that may not have the time or resources to go all the way to (Washington) D.C. to the museum,” Smart said.
Museum leaders found out about the national program through the North Carolina Humanities Council. They applied for the program and began the process of going through specialized training and preparation from the Smithsonian Institution.
Locally, 65 docents were trained to lead visitors through the exhibit. Among the volunteers was Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones.
“I’m excited about the exhibit being here and wanted to be part of it,” Jones said. “Things like the Smithsonian exhibit will do nothing but enhance the museum and its stature in our community and our state.”
Working with the Smithsonian lends some credibility to small museums like the Wake Forest Historical Museum, Smart said.
Volunteers and staff have spent years collecting information and curating the museum. But as more people move to Wake Forest, it can be tough to attract visitors who have no connection to the town, Smart said.
“To be included in this Smithsonian exhibition here has been really meaningful and important to us,” she said. “It shows supporters that we’re working very hard to have a collection that is worthy of our town and our community.”
“Hometown Teams” came to Wake Forest from Mount Airy in Surry County. After it leaves Wake Forest, the exhibit will head to Salisbury in Rowan County.
Other states will also have a chance to host the exhibit throughout the year, according to the Museum on Main Street’s website.
This year, small community museums in South Carolina, Maryland, Kansas and Oklahoma can feature “Hometown Teams.”
Want to go?
“Hometown Teams,” an exhibit at the Wake Forest Historical Museum, is free and open to the public. It can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday through May 31. The museum is located at 414 N. Main St., Wake Forest.