Smithsonian exhibit coming to Warner Public Library

Voices and Votes: Democracy in America will arrive in late 2021


CLINTON — For the second time, Vespasian Warner Public Library will be host to a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution.

The Illinois Humanities Council recently notified the library it was selected as one of the sites in the state for the exhibit, Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.  The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian’s “Museum on Main Street exhibition program.

“It was a two-step application process,” said Bobbi Perryman, Warner Library executive director.  “We had to write a grant, and then once we got past the first round, we had to write a more in-depth proposal, including how our space could accommodate the exhibit and what local exhibits we’d be putting along with it.”

This will be the second time the library has hosted a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution.  The first was “Between Fences,” in 2009.

Perryman and Warner Library’s business manager Samantha Rusk will attend a training session later conducted by the Illinois Humanities Council and the Smithsonian Institution.  During the session, they will learn about how to set up the exhibit and how to put up the library’s own local exhibition as well, which will go along with the Smithsonian exhibit.

The following small-town cultural institutions are scheduled to host the exhibit from April 2021-January 2022:

• April 17-May 29, 2021: General John A. Logan Museum, Murphysboro

• June 5-July 17, 2021: Madison County Historical Society, Edwardsville

• July 24-September 4, 2021: Savanna Museum and Cultural Center, Savanna

• September 11-October 23, 2021: Bryan-Bennett Library, Salem

• October 30-December 11, 2021: Jacksonville Area Museum, Jacksonville

• December 18, 2021-January 29, 2022: Vespasian Warner Public Library District, Clinton.

Twenty-two institutions applied during the first round application process, 13 were invited to advance to the second round.

Illinois Humanities based its decisions on criteria such as each applicant’s organizational capability, its potential to benefit from the experience and the learning and growth opportunities associated with it, its preliminary plans for companion exhibitions and public programs, the suitability of its venue, the likelihood of community support and participation, and geographic distribution. Preference was given to organizations in communities with fewer than 25,000 residents.

“We’re honored to partner with these six organizations to engage Illinoisans in thought and conversation about the vital role of civic participation in our communities, our state, and our nation,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “All of these institutions make significant contributions to the communities and regions that they serve, and we’re eager to support and learn from their work.”

Museum on Main Street is a program conducted cooperatively by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils nationwide. It gives rural and small-town Americans opportunities to experience world-class exhibitions in their own communities. It also enables the organizations that host the exhibitions to enhance their skills and expand their capacities in a variety of ways.

Voices and Votes: Democracy in America examines questions stemming from the leap of faith taken by the American revolutionaries who established a government that entrusted the power of the nation not in a monarchy but in its citizens. Who has the right to vote? What are the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens? Whose voices will be heard?

Voices and Votes addresses the following themes:

The Great Leap – the origins of America’s democratic system

A Vote, A Voice – the expansion of the right to vote and challenges related to it, past and present

The Machinery of Democracy – the institutions and systems through which we participate in the electoral process

Beyond the Ballot – civic participation, advocacy, and activism beyond the electoral process

Creating Citizens – perspectives on the rights and responsibilities of citizens and their influence upon our complex national identity.

“Not only are we excited our patrons will be able to visit a Smithsonian exhibition here in our community, we also have a great opportunity to show how ordinary citizens here in DeWitt County affected public policy state-wide,” Perryman said. “I think patrons will be surprised to see how small waves in our community spread so far.”

Matt Meacham, program manager for statewide engagement with the Illinois Humanities Council said the Council was “especially impressed with the library’s well-researched plant to examine several episodes in local political history of significant themes addressed by Voices and Votes.”