A few months ago I was speaking with Julie Gay, the director of the Bonita Museum, and she was telling me about some programs that are on tap for 2014 that were of a unique and highly interesting subject. I was in the museum the other day and she was right. The first of these new programs is on exhibit and it is something that should be seen by all the local museum goers.
The current show is a portion of what the Smithsonian Institute calls Museum on Main Street (MoMS). As I understand it this is a partnership between the Institute and state humanities council nationwide that serves small town museums and their patrons. And since it is the brainchild of the Smithsonian it has to be of top class.
This innovative program provides one of a kind access to Smithsonian exhibitions and educational humanities programs. Most importantly it provides the small museum an opportunity to showcase their strengths and reinforce their meaningful contribution to small town life. The current show, The Way We Worked was specifically designed to meet the needs of small organizations like our local museum.This exhibit is liberally backed by large size photographs of the vintage genre. It includes a section titled Where We Work. This includes farm work, factory work and even some areas that may be described as technical. The literature reminds us that in 1900 the majority of Americans lived on farms. Thirty eight percent of workers declared farming as their principal occupation. One hundred years later, in 2000, that number had dwindled to two percent yet the same work was being accomplished.
We often hear the expression, “Go where the money is,” and this has to be where the jobs are. The tasks for farm workers were dwindling while the openings for those in industry were increasing. Our diverse workforce, the literature tells us, was a key part of our nation’s story. People have different talents and this adds to a new dimension in the workforce.
To reinforce the story given to us by the Smithsonian a large part of the exhibit is comprised of items that are part of the museum’s permanent collection. Many of the local folks have made a study of the land on which we live and a side-by- side comparison could be made between its evolution and that of the nation as a whole. For example, we might take the location of a bank that is on Bonita Road at Otay Lakes Road. How many among us remember when that acreage was a dairy with real, live cows, and, of course, the people who worked them?
We might also look at the history of the Bonita Store and the restaurant that followed it. It is empty now and its fate is not known. But at one time it was the center of the township, complete with postmaster and some of the other folks that go into the operation of a small community.
Another study that is rich in lore because of its perseverance among some setbacks in its development is the Bonita/Sunnyside Fire Department. The museum boasts many of the early instruments used in fire fighting along with a history of the organization that show a certain portion of the population at work in a community project.
We strongly recommend a visit to the museum in the coming days as well as plans to make periodic visits during the ensuing shows. You not only get to see the exhibit but you will be escorted by a knowledgeable docent. On top of that, it’s free.