Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, the newest Museum on Main Street (MOMS) exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution will open to the public at the Madison County Administration Building, 157 North Main Street in Edwardsville, on Monday, July 19. Hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The exhibition, cohosted by the Madison County Historical Society (MCHS) and Madison County Government, is made possible in cooperation with Illinois Humanities. It will remain in Madison County through Friday, August 20.
Voices and Votes is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. In creating the exhibition, curators explored the history of voting in America from a broad perspective. It answers questions of who has the right to vote, what are the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens, and whose voices will be heard. Voices and Votes: Democracy in America will be a springboard for discussions about those questions and how they are reflected in local stories.
The exhibition will contain many of the same features as the exhibit in Washington, including historical and contemporary photos, educational and archival video, engaging multimedia interactives, and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material. The exhibit examines 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 that facilitate participation 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.
MCHS is one of six organizations selected by Illinois Humanities to host Voices and Votes during its statewide tour. The exhibition will tour Illinois under the auspices of Museum on Main Street, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils — including Illinois Humanities. It enables Illinoisans to experience Smithsonian-produced exhibitions on significant themes in American culture in their own communities.
“As one of the fifteen counties that comprised Illinois when it became a state in 1818, Madison County is an especially fitting place to begin our tour of Voices and Votes,” said Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director of Illinois Humanities. “Its history encompasses essential questions about the nature of citizenship, and, in some cases, conflicting responses to those questions.”
MOMS encourages hosts to expand on the theme of the exhibition with programming and exhibits that provide local perspective. To that end, a companion exhibit on Women’s Suffrage in Madison County is being prepared and numerous presentations are already scheduled both in person and via Zoom. A schedule of these events will be announced later.
While Voices and Votes is on display at the Madison County Administration Building, a related exhibition, Illinois Freedom Project, will examine the pursuit of civil rights by and for African Americans in Illinois. Illinois Freedom Project will be available for viewing at the Wood River Museum and Visitors Center, 40 West Ferguson Avenue in Wood River, from Saturday, July 19, to Saturday, August 20.
For information about the exhibit, call the Madison County Archival Library at 618-656-7569.