America's story told at Journey Stories exhibit

America's history of travel came alive this weekend at the Abingdon branch of the Harford County Public Library in a new Smithsonian-partnered exhibit.

Journey Stories, which will run through July 6, opened to a small, but excited crowd Saturday morning.

The exhibit in the library's meeting room takes a look at how immigration, migration and transportation shaped the country, starting from when the colonists came to this new land all the way to modern plane travel.

Large, three-sided displays with photos, facts, quotes and artifacts stood throughout the room. Three to four visitors at a time moved through decades of U.S. history with each one.

Interactive cutouts played music and provided factoids on different topics. The popular computer game "Oregon Trail" was also available for people to play.

Subjects varied from the rise of the steam engine, the Trail of Tears and the expansion out west.

Emily Andrews, a volunteer docent for the exhibit, explained that the exhibit encompasses "the idea that America has always been a nation on the move."

The pieces of display, she continued, demonstrates how and why our ancestors traveled here and what it was like to travel.

Bel Air resident Kenneth DeVivo came to the library that morning to pick up a movie and decided to check out Journey Stories.

"It's very nice," DeVivo said of the exhibit. He described himself as a "history buff," particularly military history, and was interested to learn something new about the country.

"I didn't realize they [settlers] hooked their wagons together like a train," DeVivo said, pointing to a display on westward expansion.

Tying into the theme of immigration, Vincent Cannato, author of "American Passage: The History of Ellis Island," spoke to a gathering of about 20 in the library's magazine section and answered questions on the famous New York site.

The visitors were interested to learn more about the place that welcomed many of their relatives and asked questions about the number of people who came through - Cannato said 75 percent of immigrants to America arrived at Ellis - the process people had to go through and what immigration is like today.

Outside the meeting room was a small exhibit, Highway Hospitality, on Route 40 in Harford County and its effect on hospitality in the 1950s and '60s.

A map of Route 40 covered one wall and above it were pictures of old businesses that once stood alongside the road.

Bob Bogar, of Abingdon, gazed at the pictures.

He had come for the community conversation with Cannato and wanted to take a look at the exhibit as well.

Bogar explained that his family had gone through Ellis Island by way of Hungary and the talk "filled in parts" that relatives had told him over the years.

Looking at Highway Hospitality, Bogar said Route 40 had "an interesting history" he had "probably passed through some of these places" that were on display.

"It's not much I hadn't seen before," Bogar commented, but he still found it interesting and particularly enjoyed that a Smithsonian exhibit was in Harford County.

"It's nice to have it here," he said.

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