Mississippi State’s Kemp to serve as state scholar for Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

Contact: Christie McNeal

Portrait of Leah Kemp
Leah Kemp (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The director of a Mississippi State University research center will serve as the state scholar for “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

Leah Kemp—director of the College of Architecture, Art and Design’s Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center—will support each of the six communities hosting the interactive, multimedia exhibit for six weeks from August 2023 through June 2024.

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, “Crossroads” explores rural America and is designed to serve as a meeting place for conversations about how rural America and rural Mississippi have changed over time. The exhibit is being presented by the Mississippi Humanities Council through a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street, or MoMS, division and is sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Each host site will additionally develop complementary exhibits and public programs to raise understanding about their community’s history and to help set goals for the future. These include:

Signage in Marks, Mississippi
Signage in Marks resulted from a previous city project in partnership with MSU's Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center. (Photo submitted)

Brookhaven: Lincoln Lawrence Franklin Regional Library

Marks: Quitman County Arts & Culture Museum

Pontotoc: Pontotoc Historical Society

Rolling Fork: Mississippi’s Lower Delta Partnership

West Point: West Point Clay County Community Growth Alliance

Wiggins: Stone County Economic Development Partnership  

Kemp will support each community in these efforts through her research with the Small Town Center and her planning and design tools. She also will lead public discussions on various “Crossroads” themes.

“My role at each community will look different depending on the theme each chooses,” Kemp said. “I will serve as a resource for each of the communities as they develop a program of work around their exhibit theme. I hope to further be a resource to the communities after the exhibit is over to help them reach their future goals outlined through this process.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as an individual but also as a center for our longstanding excellence in small town research and design,” she said. “It’s a tribute to our expertise that the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Smithsonian and the Museum on Main recognizes the things we are doing on the ground in Mississippi, and it’s a privilege to get to partner with these entities to open the door for more collaboration and improvement in our small towns.”

MSU’s Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center provides solutions to problems faced by communities across the nation through research, planning and design services. Read more about the research center at www.smalltowncenter.msstate.edu and follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @smalltowncenter.

Museum on Main Street is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. To learn more about “Crossroads” and the Mississippi schedule, visit mshumanities.org.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.