Illinois Humanities Announces Six Sites to Host Smithsonian Exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America

Illinois Humanities is proud to announce the sites that have been selected for Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a new Museum on Main Street exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Institution that will examine the impact of rural American culture upon the identity of the United States, past and present. The six sites chosen for the Illinois tour are:

Sept 8- Oct 20, 2018: Chester Public Library, Chester Ill.

Oct 27- Dec 8, 2018: Old School Museum, Winchester Ill.

Dec 15, 2018 -Jan 26, 2019 Lake Shelbyville Visitors Center, Shelbyville Ill.

Feb 2- March 16, 2019: Atlanta Public Library and Museum, Atlanta Ill.

March 23- May 4, 2019: Marshall Public Library, Marshall Ill.

May 11-June 22, 2019: Sycamore History Museum, Sycamore Ill.

Museum on Main Street is a program conducted cooperatively by the Smithsonian and state humanities councils nationwide that gives rural Americans opportunities to experience world-class exhibitions in their own communities and enables the organizations that host the exhibitions to enhance their capacities in a variety of ways.

Crossroads will describe the views of various cultural communities regarding the use and management of land and will examine the role of land in the formation of local economies. It will also discuss the emergence of rural communities and the evolution of their economic and social structures, especially during the period of rapid change in the mid-20th century. Importantly, it will explore ways in which rural communities are responding effectively to challenges in the 21st century and invite communities to contemplate their own potential paths into the future.

“Illinois’s rural communities have played and continue to play a critical role in the history and culture of our state, and we are grateful to have the chance to work with the Smithsonian both to serve rural communities and to examine the development of rural Illinois,” said Angel Ysaguirre executive director of Illinois Humanities. “The level of interest in the topic is evidenced by the fact that we received a record number of applications to host this exhibition.”

The Illinois tour of Crossroads coincides with the state’s Bicentennial and will underscore the significance of rural communities throughout its history. Chester the first community to host the exhibition, is in close proximity to Illinois’ first capital, Kaskaskia, and to the American Bottom farmland that was vital to the state’s economy in its early years.

Additionally, Chester-area native Debra Reid, curator of agriculture and the environment at The Henry Ford in Michigan, is one of the curators of the exhibition.

“It’s appropriate that the Chester Public Library help launch the new Museum on Main Street exhibition, Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” said Reid.  “Chester sits on the mighty Mississippi, the heart of a transportation system that defined the nation. Crossroads encourages us to put that national story into local context, exploring decisions to stay rather than move on, and investigating the strategies that help Illinoisans survive and thrive at their own personal crossroads.”

With assistance from Illinois Humanities, each site will develop a companion exhibition and produce public programming that will link the subject matter of the Smithsonian exhibition to the history and culture of its own community.

A rural crossroads: the intersection of County Road 5 and Murphysboro Road in southeastern Randolph County, Illinois. The contrast between the older, hand-built, wooden outbuilding on the right and the newer, fabricated, metal outbuilding on the left illustrates some of the trends that Crossroads: Change in Rural America will address. (Photograph by Matt Meacham, Illinois Humanities.)

Thanks to our Water/Ways host organizations!

Illinois Humanities heartily thanks and congratulates the six organizations that hosted Water/Ways during its 2016-17 Illinois tour! They produced impressive companion exhibitions, presented fascinating programs, and provided memorable experiences for their communities. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with them!

Smithsonian Institute Water Ways exhibit logo

Complete Schedule

May 28-July 9, 2016: Franklin Creek Grist Mill (in the Franklin Creek State Natural Area), Franklin Grove

July 16-August 27, 2016: Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet

September 3-October 15, 2016: Lawrence County Historical Society, Lawrenceville

October 22-December 3, 2016: Valmeyer Community Heritage Society, Valmeyer

December 10, 2016-January 21, 2017: Science Center of Southern Illinois, Carbondale

January 28-March 11, 2017: Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, Channahon

Bounded by several of the most important rivers on this continent and one of the Great Lakes, Illinois has been influenced profoundly by water throughout its history.  Our 2016-17 Museum on Main Street exhibition, Water/Ways, invited Illinoisans to consider the monumental significance of water in the human experience.

Water/Ways explored a variety of questions about the roles of water in the lives of individuals and communities:

  • How do Americans use water? How is water represented in our society? In what ways do we use water as a symbol?
  • How does water unite communities? How does conflict over water emerge, and how do communities resolve it?
  • How does water affect the ways in which we live, work, worship, create, and play?
  • How do we care for our water and protect the resource for the future?

Although the exhibition tour has concluded, the discussion need not end!  Our Illinois Speaks micro-grant program provides a great opportunity to continue the important conversation about the complex and vital role of water in society. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional suggestions for potential projects involving water and the humanities.

Overview & Frequently Asked Questions