Blog Article

Illinois Humanities announces two opportunities to celebrate Illinois’s Bicentennial


Illinois Humanities is excited to announce two opportunities leading up to Illinois’s Bicentennial, which will offer Illinoisans opportunities to reflect on our state’s multilayered history, to celebrate its remarkable achievements, and to contemplate its future.

The first opportunity is a Bicentennial edition of its Road Scholars Speakers Bureau and the second opportunity is a Museum on Main Street exhibition entitled Crossroads: Change in Rural America. More information about each can be found below. We invite people and organizations to apply for either opportunity by Friday, August 15, 2017.

Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

In partnership with the Illinois State Bicentennial Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, we are seeking proposals for a special edition of its Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster, devoted to significant topics and themes in Illinois history and culture.

Established in 1997, the Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau enables Illinois authors, artists, and educators, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout the state. It also gives local nonprofit organizations opportunities to present compelling cultural programs to their communities for a modest fee.

“The Illinois Humanities Road Scholars program has become a vital part of Illinois’s cultural landscape,” said Matt Meacham, Illinois Humanities program manager. “Libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, and civic groups in communities of all sizes host Road Scholars presentations, and they consistently express enthusiasm for them.”

For the Bicentennial edition of the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, proposed presentations in any format and that address any aspect of Illinois’s history or culture will be considered — from Native American tribes to contemporary African immigrant communities; from Civil War generals to post-World War II Republican Congresswomen; from patchwork quilting to skyscraper design; from coal mines to sub-atomic particle accelerators.

In addition to fitting the subject matter within the broader context of Illinois’s history or culture, proposals are encouraged to explain how it has contributed to life in our state.

Approximately 30 presentations will be chosen. Representatives of Illinois Humanities, the Illinois State Bicentennial Commission, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library will decide based on criteria such as the suitability of the proposed content and format for various audiences throughout Illinois, applicants’ communication skills and subject matter knowledge, and geographic distribution.

Presenters included on the roster for the 2016-17 Road Scholars season, which was partially suspended as a result of the state budget crisis, will be given some preference. Nonetheless, anyone is welcome to apply, regardless of any prior affiliation with the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau.

The selected presentations will be available to non-profit organizations throughout Illinois. The Illinois State Bicentennial Commission also plans to organize several special events at educational institutions or historically significant locations throughout the state.

The Commission also hopes to make an audio or video recording of at least one iteration of each presentation on the roster for archival purposes and for potential broadcast and online streaming.

Those interested must complete the form (found here) by Friday, August 15, at 6 PM. Applicants will submit a brief video sample to illustrate their ability to communicate with audiences. The technical quality of the video does not need to be high — videos recorded with smartphones, for instance, are perfectly acceptable — and the application form includes further instructions.

Museum on Main Street – Crossroads: Change in Rural America

Illinois Humanities also invites organizations from communities with fewer than 10,000 residents to apply to host Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a new Museum on Main Street exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution and Illinois Humanities. It will visit six Illinois communities between September 8, 2018, and June 22, 2019.

Museum on Main Street not only enables Illinoisans to experience Smithsonian-produced exhibitions in their own communities but it also gives the local hosting cultural organizations opportunities to enhance their roles within their communities, attract new audiences and volunteers, expand their knowledge and resource bases, and develop skills for future exhibitions and programs.

Periodically, we facilitate a statewide tour of a traveling exhibition on a significant theme in American culture produced by the Smithsonian Institution. We invite cultural organizations, including museums, libraries, arts councils, historical societies, and educational institutions, to apply to host it. Six organizations are selected.

Each host organization will display the Smithsonian-produced exhibition for a period of six weeks. It will produce a locally-focused companion exhibition linking the subject matter of the Smithsonian-produced exhibition to the history and culture of its own community. And it will present public programs that engage participants with the topics and themes of the exhibitions.

Through both individual consultation and group workshops, Illinois Humanities staff members and consultants will work closely with each host organization for at least a year prior to opening.

The host organizations and their communities reap significant benefits from their efforts, and they often continue to do so long after the exhibition has concluded. A Museum on Main Street exhibition, however, requires significant investments of time, energy, and creativity from the host organizations and their community partners.

Crossroads will examine economic and social changes that have affected rural communities over the past century. It will discuss the role of rural America within America’s identity and will impart a variety of case studies and narratives from communities throughout the country.

The exhibition will offer rural Illinois communities an opportunity to contemplate their own histories and ongoing developments. It will invite them to consider and discuss potential strategies for long-term viability and vitality.

The co-curators of Crossroads are southwestern Illinois native Dr. Debra Reid, curator of agriculture and the environment at The Henry Ford in Michigan and professor emeritus of history and historic administration at Eastern Illinois University, and Dr. Ann McCleary, professor of history and director of the Public History Center at the University of West Georgia.

Because the exhibition tour will coincide with the Illinois Bicentennial, Illinois Humanities plans to conduct several programs that will connect the content of Crossroads with opportunities to reflect upon our state’s history and possibilities for its future. Organizations and communities that host the exhibition may be invited (but not required) to participate in some of these activities.

In keeping with the subject matter of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, Illinois Humanities invites organizations in Illinois communities with populations under 10,000 to apply to participate. Preference will be given to organizations in counties with population densities under 200 residents per square mile and to organizations that have never previously hosted Museum on Main Street exhibitions, but organizations that do not fit those descriptions are nonetheless welcome to apply.

Illinois Humanities will select the host organizations based on their geographic distribution, the strengths of their preliminary proposals for companion exhibitions and programs, their potential for organizational growth, the potential for community involvement, and availability of a suitable location.

The application form and more information about the application process are available here. Applications are due by August 15, 2017, at 6 PM. For more information, please contact Matt Meacham, program manager, at or (312) 422-5589.