Jacksonville Area Museum To Host Smithsonian Exhibit

By Benjamin Cox on April 3, 2020 at 8:47am

A new Jacksonville cultural institution will have a display from the Smithsonian Institute next summer. Illinois Humanities has selected the Jacksonville Area Museum as one of the six sites in the state that will host the “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” Museum on Main Street tour next year.

Illinois Humanities chose the six host organizations out of 22 applications through a two-stage process. Board Chairman of the Jacksonville Area Museum David Blanchette explains what will accompany the exhibit. “We’re please to say that the exhibit will be at the museum on October 30th through December 11th, 2021. It’s going to have an interactive component. It’s going to talk about the right to vote, the institutions that help our democracy function, civic participation, and how new citizens are created. It’s just a really neat exhibit, and we are really pleased that out of the large number of institutions that applied for this exhibit that we were one of the few who were chosen.”

Blanchette says that one of the keys to Jacksonville’s winning application was the museum’s local exhibits on local historic figures. “One of the key components of the application was the companion programs that we intended to develop to go along with the exhibit. They really liked the companion programs that we suggested that could accompany this. Not only are we going to host the exhibit, but we are going to have some special programs and exhibits of our own that complement that. Ours are going to focus on famous people in the political process that had Jacksonville ties like Stephen A. Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, and Helen Foreman who was not only mayor of Jacksonville but was one of Ronald Reagan’s grade school teachers.”

Blanchette says that work on museum has slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but they are still getting things together for an opening before the exhibit arrives. “We can’t gather and sort through artifacts, catalog artifacts like we had been doing. We have been on a holding pattern while the restrictions are in place. We are definitely working on policies and things we can do on the computer from our homes. Realistically, late this year or early next year [is when we plan to open]. It’s kind of hard to tell. It depends on how long the restrictions are in place; and once they are eased, how much are they going to be eased. It will definitely be open by the time we host the exhibit in the Fall 2021. How much before then, as far as the opening of the museum, remains to be seen. We have made tremendous progress in the last few months, and it’s unfortunate, as it is for many people, that these restrictions are in place. We understand why they are in place and we are really in the same boat as everybody else.”

Blanchette says that initially there will be no admission charge to the museum and there is going to be no admission charge for the exhibit when it arrives next year. Blanchette says there will be a suggested donation for those who come to the museum. He says if donations fall below expectations that the museum board would revisit charging for entry in the future. He says the museum staff is all volunteer and the museum operates through donations.

Anyone wishing to know more about the museum, the exhibit, or how to donate to the Jacksonville Area Museum, they can be found on Facebook.