Skip to Content



Michigan State University labor historian and educator John Beck has been named the state scholar for the Michigan Humanities Council-Smithsonian exhibition tour of "The Way We Worked" as it travels to six rural Michigan cities through July 2013.
"The Way We Worked," adapted from an original exhibit developed by the National Archives, explores how work became a central element in American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.
As state scholar, Beck is working with host communities to develop programming that looks at each host cities' local work history and how it shaped the area over time.
John Beck
Beck is an associate professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations in the MSU College of Social Science, and co-director of the "Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives" workers culture program in partnership with the MSU Museum.  An adjunct curator as well, Beck has helped develop a series of lectures and exhibits for the MSU Museum, that examine the broad range of artistic and cultural expressions surrounding our relationship with "work."
 “’The Way We Worked’ is an incredible exhibit which really captures the changing nature of work from the late 19th century to today,” observes Beck. “Exhibit-goers can really see how workers in all occupations have been integral to the building of our nation’s greatness.”
About "The Way We Worked"
The exhibit features graphics, audio components, photo flipbooks, film and numerous artifacts on the history of our national workforce.  The National Archives' rich photographic collections tell the story of work in American culture. Why, where and how we work? What value does work have to individuals and communities? What does our work tell others about us?
In Michigan, "The Way We Worked" focuses on the small-town pride that engulfs our state; and the host cities have workforce backgrounds and heritage in shipping and lumber, tourism, calcite mining, agriculture and more, making each site's exhibit profoundly different from the one before. 
The statewide tour for "The Way We Worked" includes
Through Oct. 29, 2012
Presque Isle County Historical Museum, Rogers City
Nov. 6 – Dec. 14, 2012
Dale A. Lyons Building, Southwestern Michigan College, Dowagiac
Jan. 4 – Feb. 9, 2013
Cromaine District Library, Hartland
Feb. 19 - March 28, 2013
Besse Center - Bay College,  Escanaba
April 9 - May 18, 2013
Pere Marquette District Library, Clare
May 24 – July 6, 2013
Hart Area Public Library, Hart
“The Way We Worked,” an exhibition created by the National Archives, is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. The Michigan Humanities Council was founded in 1974 and is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and individual donors. 
The MSU Museum is the natural science and culture museum at Michigan State University and the State's first Smithsonian affiliate. Learn more at