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A Smithsonian exhibition visiting Sulphur Springs showcases the history of American democracy

“Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is stopping at the Sulphur Springs Museum as part of a partnership between the Smithsonian and Florida Humanities.

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is playing host to a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibition focusing on “the nearly 250-year-old American experiment of a government of, by and for the people.”

An older woman in pink and white walks off to the left while a man in black stands on the right contemplating written works hung on the wall. There are museum displays and arches in the background.
Ari Angelo

“Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is stopping at the museum as part of a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution and Florida Humanities.

Florida Humanities is a local non-profit dedicated to preserving Florida’s history and has worked with the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Services program (SITES) since 2012.

In a press release, Florida Humanities described the exhibit as a look at how the generations that followed the American Revolution continue to question how to form “a more perfect union.”

"The underlying theme of this exhibition is that democracy requires participation,” said Associate Director of Florida Humanities Patricia Putnam.

“With 2024 being another critical election year in our state and our country, this exhibit and the associated public programming will help visitors not only better understand the historical origins of democracy in this country but why it's critical for citizens to remain engaged in the democratic process."

“Voices and Votes” is based on a large-scale exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

A stuffed animal donkey and elephant Pez dispenser duo sits in a display case alongside a political illustration. The illustration is from 1978 and includes a bi-pedal donkey and elephant fighting with scissors.
Ari Angelo
Pez dispensers and political cartoons are some of the artifacts on display at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center.

Sulphur Springs Museum Board Member Elizabeth Bird said one of the goals is to create a space for conversations.

"I hope that this exhibit will in fact spur people to think about democracy, to think about why it’s important, to think about the threats that they may see around them and to get out and exercise their rights,” said Bird.

Museum goers can see the different ways Americans have helped shape the country we have today, from protests to laws being enacted. At the recent opening ceremony, Executive Director of Florida Humanities Nashid Madyun spoke about how the Sulphur Springs Museum was chosen as the first stop in Florida.

"One of the things that’s impressive about this institution is that it competed with dozens of applications around the state for this exhibition,” said Madyun. “This exhibition is only going to show in five locations in this state this year."

During over a decade-long relationship, Florida Humanities has partnered with SITES to bring 12 Museum on Main Street traveling exhibits to 37 counties across Florida.

“Voices and Votes” is the third display from the Smithsonian featured at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center.

A large yellow sign reads "Voices and Votes Democracy in America" in blue font. There are two blue columns on the side with white stars.
Ari Angelo
"Voices and Votes" will be on display at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center until May 19th.

Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, the exhibit will also visit Okeechobee, Gainesville, Cape Coral and Leesburg. “Voices and Votes” will remain in Tampa until May 19th.

Alongside the exhibit, the Sulphur Springs Museum will feature a series of guest speakers:

April 7, 2 p.m. | Racial Subordination & the Meaning of Democracy

April 21, 2 p.m. | Politicking Politely: Women Making a Difference in the 1960s and 1970s

May 5, 2 p.m. | The Act That Ruined America, and How to Fix It

May 19, 2 p.m. | Contemporary Challenges to Im/migrant Rights

Ari Angelo is a WUSF-USF Zimmerman Rush Family Digital News intern for spring of 2024.
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