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Smithsonian to focus on Cedar Key

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By Mark Scohier

In a few months, Cedar Key will be one of six cities in the state to host a traveling exhibit from the nation’s premier museum, the Smithsonian Institution.

“The Way We Worked,” part of the Smithsonian’s “Museum on Main Street” program, will be in Cedar Key from September through October.

“It’s just fabulous,” said Cedar Key Historical Society President Ken Young, adding that the historical society, in conjunction with other groups, has been trying to get the exhibit in the area for a couple of years.

“This is really a good opportunity for us to get out in the foreground,” Young said.

The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian’s effort to engage small-town audiences and draw attention to the often-overlooked histories and cultures in those areas.

“Through highly targeted community programs and creative activities, MoMS exhibitions become a hub for storytelling and local pride. Residents enthusiastically engage with exhibition content, as diverse community members come together to share and celebrate their heritage,” the Smithsonian’s website states.

“We’re trying to get the town as involved as we can,” Young said.

Cedar Key is the first and only stop for the museum in Florida for 2014. Other cities will be visited throughout 2015. Young said the fact that the exhibit will be coming in September is a good thing, economically, because that time of year happens to be the slowest in terms of tourism for Cedar Key.

The exhibit portion of the temporary museum, which is free to the public, will be located on the second floor of the Cedar Key Public Library and will focus on how the workforce in the area helped shape culture during the last 150 years.

As part of the exhibit, the Smithsonian, which is working on the project in conjunction with the state’s humanities council, will partner with community groups and members to broaden the scope of the experience.

Weekly tours are scheduled while the Smithsonian is in town. Ranger led excursions will take place in areas such as Shell Mound, known for its rich archaeological heritage. The University of Florida’s aquaculture program will be delivering talks on the clam industry, which has become of vital part of the workforce in Cedar Key, and local columnist, painter, fishing guide and acclaimed cracker cowboy Bill Roberts will have art on display in a one-man show sponsored by the Cedar Key Arts Center.

“There’s going to be lots of stuff going on,” Young said.

At the same time, the Levy County Historical Society and the Ocala Model Railroad Restoration Society will take part in an exhibit Sept. 26, 27 and 28 at the Cedar Key Community Center called “Railroads and Riverboats.”

Author, historian and Levy County Historical Society member Toni C. Collins said the participants in the exhibit will all be in period dress. The exhibit there, which is supplemental to the Smithsonian exhibit, will feature model trains such as the type that would have come to the area. And there will be large-format photos and drawings of riverboats that would have been in the area in the mid-1800s, as well as old newspaper articles, schedules and information about several captains and blockade runners that would have been operating along the river and in the Gulf.

“It’s just more of Levy County’s history,” Collins said, adding that all the upcoming events are a great way to get that history out there in the public.