The goals of Be Here: Main Street are not only to share rich stories about America’s towns and waterways but also to connect people, businesses, communities, and cultural institutions through storytelling.
Part of the MuseWeb Foundation’s larger Be Here initiative, Be Here: Main Street is a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and its Museum on Main Street program, which brings Smithsonian traveling exhibitions to small towns across the United States and its territories.
MuseWeb and its partners at the Museum on Main Street program believe that everyone has a story that’s worth sharing—whether that story is about a cherished waterway, a local landmark or business, a popular park, an engaging museum, a little-known cultural site, or a beloved natural resource. These rarely heard stories are likely to capture a “history” of small-town America based on experience, knowledge, and memory rather than simple dates and facts. In this way, the published stories offer people a rare and authentic glimpse into the history, traditions, and culture of a community.
One story-collecting effort focuses on water–America’s lakes, rivers, streams, etc. The theme coincides with the current Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Water/Ways, which is now on view in several states. The pilot program will be working with communities specifically in Minnesota and Alabama. Other previously collected stories include those about food traditions, local sports, work history, immigration and journeys, and stories about life in America’s small towns.
The core goals of the Be Here: Main Street initiative are:
- Gather rich and diverse stories about places and people in small-town America
- Make cultural content the engine for driving community transformation
- Encourage sustainable partnerships between cultural institutions and local businesses
- Help train communities on the use of new, open-source technologies
- Ensure the availability of stories through mobile and digital media as well as other means of publicity
- Foster a cultural exchange of sharing and learning about what makes each community unique and important
- Create a lasting desire for future story collection and sharing