Press Release

Smithsonian partners with Illinois Humanities on statewide traveling exhibition celebrating rural innovation

Spark! Places of Innovation features seven Illinois communities – five of whom will host the tour.

CHICAGO, JUNE 14, 2023Illinois Humanities today is announcing the June 17 launch of the Spark! Places of Innovation Illinois tour. The newest traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program will tour seven towns in Illinois through Spring, 2024. Illinois Humanities partners with the Smithsonian to bring world-class, multimedia Smithsonian exhibitions to small towns and rural communities in Illinois.

The national exhibition features seven Illinois towns: Equality (Gallatin County), Hillsboro (Montgomery County), Chatsworth (Livingston County), Rushville (Schuyler County), Marshall (Clark County), Atlanta (Logan County), and Fairbury (Livingston County). The tour will visit five of the Illinois communities featured in Spark! (Equality, Hillsboro, Chatsworth, Rushville, Marshall), as well as Durand (Winnebago County) and Havana (Mason County).

“We couldn’t be prouder to premier this national traveling Smithsonian exhibition right here in Illinois,” says Illinois Humanities Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon. “Not only does the exhibit prominently feature our rural communities, but each tour stop highlights beautiful examples of the state’s spirit of invention and resourcefulness. Since each site features unique programming and local stories, it’s a great excuse to visit the show at more than one location.”

Through partnerships with organizations local to each community, every tour stop will showcase the town’s homegrown stories, local events and history.

The exhibition premieres in Equality where it will be locally hosted by the Gallatin County Tourism Committee. The committee will showcase events for visitors to learn more about the local salt mines and their role in the town’s history. Additionally, on June 18, the public event “Legends and Lore of the Gallatin Salines and the Crenshaw House,” will tell the story of local historical figures and landmarks that play important roles in Equality’s legacy as the last town in Illinois to use enslaved labor.

Spark! is Illinois Humanities’ 13th collaboration with Museum on Main Street.

Exhibition Schedule


About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.

About Museum on Main Street

Museum on Main Street is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils, including Illinois Humanities. It not only enables Illinoisans to experience Smithsonian-produced exhibitions in their own communities but also gives the local cultural organizations that host these exhibitions opportunities to enhance their roles within their communities and regions, attract new audiences and volunteers, expand their knowledge and resource bases, and develop skills that can be applied toward future exhibitions and programs.