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Smithsonian traveling exhibition, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is coming to Gainesville

Press release from Matheson History Museum

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with the Florida Humanities, presents “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.” The exhibition examines the nearly 250-year-old American experiment of a government “of, by and for the people” and how each generation since continues to question how to form “a more perfect union.” Opening at the Matheson History Museum on Saturday, July 20, “Voices and Votes” will be on view through Saturday, September 7.

The Matheson History Museum and the surrounding community has been chosen by the Florida Humanities Council to host “Voices and Votes” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to small cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour five communities in Florida from March 23, 2024, to January 11, 2025.

The Matheson History Museum will also be hosting an additional exhibition, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in Alachua County,” which focuses on our local history of elections, civil rights, and more. Researched and curated by Liam Shanley and Willett Hancock, the local history exhibition will be on display from June 26 through early 2025. It has been created in partnership with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections and the League of Women Voters of Alachua County.

Executive Director Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney said, “The Matheson History Museum is honored to be one of five museums in Florida selected to host this exhibition during a critical election year. Voices and Votes encourages all Americans to engage and participate in our democracy to make their voice heard. We look forward to welcoming our neighbors in to learn more about the history of elections and the political process in Alachua County and beyond.”

“Voices and Votes” explores the action, reaction, vision, and revision that democracy demands as Americans continue to question how to shape the country. From the revolution and suffrage to civil rights and casting ballots, everyone in every community is part of this ever-evolving story—the story of democracy in America. Exhibition sections explore the origins of American democracy, the struggles to obtain and keep the vote, the machinery of democracy, the right to petition and protest beyond the ballot, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. “Voices and Votes” features historical and contemporary photos; educational and archival video; engaging multimedia interactives with short games; and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material.

Members-only Preview

Friday, July 19
11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Current Members of the Matheson History Museum are invited for a special, members-only preview day of the traveling exhibition.

Opening Reception

Saturday, July 20
2 p.m.

Join us for a ribbon cutting, refreshments, and tour the exhibition! The museum will be open from 11-4 and visitors are welcome to stop by to tour the exhibition any time during those hours. The grand ribbon cutting and remarks will be held at 2 p.m.

“Voices and Votes” is based on an exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith.

The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about “Voices” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit museumonmainstreet.org.

Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. These exhibits are also sponsored in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County, FL; The City of Gainesville; and by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of the Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida.

    • Republics are a form of democracy where citizens elect leaders. They are not NOT democracies.

      By the way, small governments like townships in New England still practice direct democracy and no one thinks of them as mob rule. Size of the population is one factor in determining what type of democracy is practiced but so its the concept of more expert leaders being favorable to direct democracy. Of course term limits lessen the likelihood that leaders will be expert.

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