The traveling Smithsonian exhibit Voices and Votes: Democracy in America will open at the Laurens County Museum on Saturday, June 4th, 2022. 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.” The exhibit will be in Laurens until Saturday, July 16th, and several collateral programs and events will take place while the exhibit is on display. The tour of Voices and Votes is made possible in South Carolina by SC Humanities.
The Laurens County Museum and the surrounding community were chosen by SC Humanities through a competitive application process 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 rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour six communities in South Carolina from April 2022 through January 2023; an itinerary of all six stops on the tour and more program details can be found at https://schumanities.org/voices-and-votes/.
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.
The Voices and Votes exhibit is installed at the newly-opened Laurens County Museum at 116 W Public Square, Laurens, SC 29360. The museum is open Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
There will be a special grand opening event on Saturday, June 4th with a ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m., followed by the “Celebrating our Voices and Votes” Leadership Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in the Magnolia Room at the museum. The “Celebrating Our Voices and Our Votes” luncheon will celebrate women who have and are serving as leaders in their communities all across Laurens County. In addition to a catered lunch, a panel of women speakers from diverse backgrounds will be featured. The museum’s “Laurens County Stories” oral history project will resume that day. “Laurens County Stories” will provide an opportunity to share the stories and histories of family and community. The stories will be recorded and archived at the museum. A vote will be taken to decide which non-profit(s) will be a beneficiary of the ticket donations. Contact the Laurens County Museum, (864)681-3678, hours 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM Tuesday-Saturday, to obtain a ticket.
Additionally, there will be a Juneteenth event on Saturday, June 18th at 1:00 p.m. featuring celebrated photographer and Civil Rights activist and historian Cecil Williams.
The Laurens County Museum will also co-host the special writing and reflection workshop “The Communal Pen” while the exhibit is on display. The dates of this free, virtual writing workshop are Saturday, June 11th 12:00PM – 2:30PM and Saturday, June 18th 12:00PM – 2:00PM. Register here. This writing workshop draws inspiration from Voices and Votes. The exhibit themes and images are a springboard for igniting our own stories, giving voice to our shared and unique experiences. The Communal Pen is developed through the SC Arts Commission’s place-based initiative, the Art of Community: Rural SC. The writing workshops are coordinated through the Community Arts Development and Folklife programs, with generous support from SC Humanities.
Laurens County Museum will host a talk by and discussion with Dr. Robert Greene II, Assistant Professor of History at Claflin University, on Wednesday, July 13 at 12:00 p.m. The presentation “Laurens County and the Long Black Freedom Struggle” details the integral role Laurens has played in the Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights eras in South Carolina.
Designed for small-town museums, libraries and cultural organizations, Voices and Votes will serve as a community meeting place for conversations about democracy, the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens, participating in government, and more.
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 Votes and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit museumonmainstreet.org. Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress.
The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c)3 organization is governed by a volunteer 21-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.
The Laurens County Museum is a non-profit organization that actively investigates and communicates information regarding our important prehistoric and historic resources. We excel in presenting authentic views and experiences to diverse audiences in our county, state, nations, and world through research, preservation, and education.
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 65 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit sites.si.edu.