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The Voices and Votes: Democracy in America exhibition is now available to be installed for six weeks per site at twelve museums in New York State from March of 2024 through January of 2026 to help communities commemorate the Semiquincentennial. MANY is proud to be the designated organizer for the New York State tour of this important exhibition and a national partner of America250

Voices and Votes Traveling Exhibition

Voices and Votes is adapted from the exhibition American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This traveling exhibition includes many of the same dynamic features: historical and contemporary photographs; educational and archival video; engaging multimedia interactives, and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material. 

As our nation approaches the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we know that museums are searching for ways to engage their communities with connections to the history of our nation. They are seeking ways to tell multivocal stories of our past, to embrace all the people who live in their communities regardless of race, religion, or nation of origin. 

Learning about and understanding democracy is a process that takes place at the intersection of place, the individual, and the community. Museums with their depth of public trust, central locations within communities, and their physical and programmatic gathering spaces can become a new Agora* for the twenty-first century. Within these trusted spaces, objects of material culture, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs, literature, and works of art can ground conversations in shared experiences. 

Smithsonian resources available to the twelve museums will include digital learning curricula, preformatted press kits, and other capacity building tools. MANY staff will organize the exhibition travel, and help each museum plan, implement, and evaluate the exhibitions and interpretive programs. 

Voices and Votes exhibition themes include:

      • the principles and events that inspired the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution;
      • the struggle for voting rights and equal participation in our democracy; 
      • freedoms and responsibilities of citizens; 
      • the formal and informal processes of our political systems;
      • music, performance, and visual arts as expressions of democracy;
      • protest and actions beyond the ballot including civil rights movements and the struggles of historically marginalized people;
      • and supporting new American citizens.

Each museum will display the Smithsonian exhibition and produce a small exhibition drawn from their own collection that relates to their community’s role in the development and advancement of Democracy in America, explores a Voices and Votes theme, or tells the story of how people in their community created positive change for our nation. The local exhibitions may be installed in the museum, or in a community partner space like a library or school, or the Voices and Votes exhibition could be installed in a community partner space and the local exhibition in the museum.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 by Rowland Scherman. Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

"Naturalization Ceremony at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello," July 4, 2013

┬ęThomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello

Hazel Hunkins Hallinan and other suffragists picketing with banners, wearing sashes that state the names of their colleges, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

A New Agora for New York

Museums as Spaces for Democracy Humanities Discussions Programs

The Museum Association of New York has applied to the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce “A New Agora for New York: Museums as Spaces for Democracy.” This proposed series of humanities programs will use Voices and Votes: Democracy in America as a launching point to support the work of selected museums and their communities to explore, reflect on, and tell the story of their role in the evolution of American Democracy and envision the future of our nation as we approach the semiquincentennial.

Humanities Discussion Programs will include two training symposia for two staff from each of the selected museums, access to a scholar advisory committee, the development and installation of an exhibition of materials from the museum’s collection that tells the story of their community’s relationship with democracy, a lecture by a project scholar, an oral history gathering project using OurStoryBridge, a Community Conversation discussion program and training led by HNY staff, and a workshop for local teachers to help build their knowledge and discussion leadership skills.

Participants will also be given access to AASLH’s Vital Resources package including memberships in AASLH, enrollment in their Standards and Excellence Self-Assessment Program, one registration for their annual conference, and access to four webinars.

Funding for these programs will be announced April 2023 and selected museums will know as soon as we do.

How to apply to be a host site

Participating museums will be selected through a competitive application process. Applications will be available in early February with an early March due date and reviewed by a committee that will include staff of Humanities New York, The New York State Museum, MANY board members and invited guests. It is our goal to review applications by the end of March and announce participating museums by early April. 

Applications must be submitted to Megan Eves, by 5 PM Friday, March 17, 2023. Selected participants will be notified in early April.

Click here to view the application form. 

Requirements and Eligibility 

Although MANY will continue to raise funds to offset the cost of the exhibition travel, marketing, and public programs, by submitting this application, the museum commits to contributing $4,000 to the project which includes the cost of shipping the exhibition to your site. These funds will not be due until the exhibition is delivered to your site.

Voices and Votes consists of 6 free-standing kiosks. The exhibition is approximately 700 square feet and you will need a minimum ceiling height of 8 feet to install the exhibition. Your space does not need to be climate-controlled, but does need to be clean, cool (below 75 degrees F), and dry with limited direct sunlight.

Voices and Votes packs in 16 crates. The crates are all on wheels, roll easily and they are all designed to fit through a single doorway. When packed, the crates weigh between 150 and 350 pounds. You will need to store the crates while the exhibition is installed. Storage can be either on-site or off and must be approximately 200 square feet, cool, dry, and clean. Crates may be stacked once they are empty.

If you have any questions regarding the above requirements or would like to learn more, please email or call 518-273-3400.

*In ancient Greek cities an Agora was both an assembly of people and the physical setting in which they gathered. It was an open space in which intellectual and thought-provoking discussions formed the foundation of a civil society.

The Museum Association of New York helps shape a better future for museums and museum professionals by uplifting best practices and building organizational capacity through advocacy, training, and networking opportunities.

Museum Association of New York is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. 

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