This story originally appeared in the WAND-TV
It’s a local museum exhibit with national recognition and you can find in only one Illinois community right now. The Smithsonian’s traveling hometown teams exhibit has made a stop in Mattoon and there you can learn all about sports. In this week’s Central Illinois Sports Report Elise Menaker shows how visitors don’t have to be museum lovers to enjoy it.
Sports are woven into america’s history. They shape people. They shape towns, and now a museum exhibit in mattoon can show you how.
“We, as a group, heard the talk about hometown teams and knew immediately that that would be a great fit for us,” explained Angelia Burgett, director of the Matton Tourism and Arts Council. “Like lots of places we are definitely a sports town, it’s a big part of our economic development, it’s a big part of our tourism. It’s a huge part of what happens here.”
The council teamed up with the Smithsonian to present the traveling exhibit: Hometown Teams.
“Being able to bring something of this quality to mattoon is exciting,” said Justin Grady of the chairmain Mattoon Arts Council.
Mattoon is one of just six communities in Illinois to host the exhibit.
“It’s not about individual sports events,” he said. “It’s about the evolution of sports and the participation of sports.”
The museum is 80 percent Smithsonian, 20 percent local, 100 percent sports.
“This is museum 2.0,” Burgett said.
Exhibits allow people to touch, see, even listen to history told through audio stories and represented in pictures, video, newspaper clippings and even school’s jerseys that hang from the ceiling. And have your questions answered, like ever wonder how nachos became so popular at ballparks? Or what’s the point of the seventh inning stretch?
“It’s very vivid,” Burgett described. “There’s very vivid color. There’s a lot of things to look at. There’s a lot of questions to answer.”
The the station, “What’s Your Number,” you’re asked to write down any number in your life that’s related to sports, and then you post it up on the board. And all of this is to show what sports mean to you.
“It’s about getting that stuff that’s so great at the Smithsonian and bringing it down to this level,” Burgett said.
Because every sport has its place in history and there’s a story to be told.
“A community member came to our office and said that she had wanted to play baseball with the boys when she was about nine had not yet been started and she went to her dad and said, “the boys won’t let me play.” and he said, “well let’s start your own team,'” Burgett explained.
And thus the Pontytail League was born, those types of actions paving the way for women’s athletics today.
“The exhibit is about sports but it’s also about America,” Grady said.
It’s a never ending story, a game with no finish line.
“Once this is over, and it moves on to the next community, for us it doesn’t end,” Burgett said.
The tourism and arts council will continue to collect stories and pictures because it’s all about root, root, rooting for the home team.
The exhibit is free and will only be in mattoon until June 1. It’s open Wednesdays and Fridays 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and by appointment. The exhibit’s next stop is Nokomis.