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Frequently Asked Questions

Why are there two names, “Between Fences” and “Barriers and Gateways?”
immigrant photos“Between Fences” is the name of the traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition that will be hosted by Montpelier Mansion from September 19 to November 7, 2010. This traveling exhibit tells the stories of fences and barriers - both real and metaphorical - across the U.S. “Between Fences” toured 20 states before coming to Maryland. It is being brought to our state by the Maryland Humanities Council, and Montpelier Mansion is honored to be the first stop on its Maryland tour. Find out more about the "Between Fences" Maryland tour.

“Barriers and Gateways” is the name of the companion exhibit, created by Montpelier Mansion, the Natural and Historic Resources Division of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Laurel Museum, and other partners. Each host site for “Between Fences” must create a companion exhibit that examines fences, boundaries and gateways in their own communities. We call our companion exhibit “Barriers and Gateways” because we are exploring the immigrant experience in the Laurel community. Starting with the arrival of Richard Snowden, an indentured servant whose great, great grandson built Montpelier Mansion, Laurel has always been a destination for those seeking opportunity in a new land. We will explore the challenges and successes of immigrants – both forced, like slaves, and voluntary – to this area from the 1600s to the present, striving to find common ground between the early settlers and more recent immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Most of us have an immigration story in our family histories. We will be telling the stories of our neighbors and their families, and their challenges and successes in a new land.

What is “Museums on Main Street?”
Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is a one-of-a-kind cultural project that serves small-town museums and residents of rural and small town America. It is a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and state humanities councils nationwide. Museum on Main Street combines the prestige of Smithsonian exhibitions, the program expertise of state humanities councils, and the remarkable volunteerism and unique histories of small towns. Museum on Main Street is funded by the United States Congress “Between Fences” is one of nine Museums on Main Street traveling exhibitions that have toured the U.S. Find out more about Museums on Main Street.
smithsonain institute travel exhibition service
Who is the Barriers and Gateways project interested in?
If you or anyone in your family – past or present - has settled in the Laurel community and would like to share your stories of challenge and success in a new land, we’d like to talk to you.

I want to participate. What do I do next?
You can share your stories with us in one of two ways:
  1. Click here to go to the "Barriers and Gateways" questionnaire. Answer as many or as few questions as you’d like.
  2. You can schedule an in-person or phone interview by emailing us at , and putting “Barriers and Gateways” in the subject line, or calling us at 301-377-7817. We will set up a convenient interview date and time and send you a confirmation.

How long do the interviews last?
The maximum length is 90 minutes. There are no requirements for minimum length. Interviews typically last from 45 to 80 minutes. Don't be discouraged by the amount of time; people have enjoyed doing these interviews. They make connections between themselves and previous generations many of them hadn’t thought of before.

What's the interview like?
The interview is really just a conversation between you and the interviewer about your family’s immigration story and how you fit into that story. Every interview is unique, but each follows a general pattern. Much like a story in a book, the interviews have a beginning (family background), a middle (your experience), and an end (what you have gained from your family’s immigrant experience). A list of possible questions can be found on the “Barriers and Gateways Questionnaire” page of this website.

Before each interview, the interviewee must sign an Oral History Release, giving Montpelier permission to use the information for educational purposes, such as the exhibit. If we plan to photograph or videotape the interview, we will ask your permission first; you will sign a “Model Release” form, giving us permission to use the photographs or videos for educational purposes.

Should I bring photos, documents or family mementos with me to my interview?
brass plate We encourage you to bring items that are useful in stirring memories. Feel free to bring anything that illustrates your family’s immigration story, such as heirlooms, mementos, photographs, documents, etc. We are looking for objects for the exhibit, so if you are willing to loan us what you bring, we will have a loan agreement ready for you.