Why We Work


For hundreds of years, America has been the place where people come to work and start a new life, but the way labor looks has changed dramatically since the country’s first years.

Why We Work, an interactive exhibition opening at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, focuses on contemporary and historic images of labor. The exhibition features the work of students from Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) alongside the photography of STYLE contributor Christopher Myers and A. Aubrey Bodine and portraits from the Library of Congress and Baltimore Museum of Industry BGE collection, among others.

“It’s interesting to see the idea of what work is because it is kind of a big general broad term, but in the end it means something different to all people,” said Myers.  “The neat thing is it puts a very human face to something that’s very important.”

The exhibition was created through a program called “Museum Lab,” a course taught by Johns Hopkins University Director of Interpretation Beth Maloney that focused on how museums use different techniques to engage visitors and encourage participation. The students partnered with the MICA and Ashton Design to create an exhibit focused on a topic that nearly every visitor can connect with: Work.

Why We Work gives visitors the opportunity to reflect on the role work has in their lives by presenting images of workers from many different industries, eras and backgrounds. The exhibit also features a board where visitors can become part of the artwork by writing down what work means to them and placing their thoughts within a collage.

“Each person has a reason for why they work,” said Myers. “Sometimes it’s just to provide for their families, sometimes it’s a higher calling, but it really gets down to the existential thing: Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? Why do we choose to do something that takes up a large portion of our adult life? What does it mean to us and society at large?”

The exhibit, funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Johns Hopkins University, opens May 19 and will be open until April 14, 2019. 

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here