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The Smithsonian is coming to Kansas!

The Smithsonian is coming to Kansas! Humanities Kansas has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program to bring Voices and Votes: Democracy in America to six Kansas communities in 2023. Voices and Votes is based on a major exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith.

Voices and Votes takes a broad look at American democracy and examines the history and context of a government run by and for the people,” says Abigail Kaup, program officer for Humanities Kansas. “The national touring exhibition is designed to spark conversations about (our) system and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.”

Beginning in March 2023 through January 2024, six communities will host the national traveling exhibition, adding local companion exhibits and public programming opportunities along the way. Each stop on the tour explores the Voices and Votes theme through the lens of their local stories from past and present. Here’s a look at the 2023-2024 Voices and Votes hosts. Find the full schedule here.

Boot Hill

Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City

The Smithsonian gets the heck into Dodge when the Voices and Votes tour kicks off at the Boot Hill Museum. The cattle town’s political decisions of the 1870s and 1880s played out at the ballot box, explains Lyne Johnson, the museum’s assistant director. “Dodge is notorious for the cattle drive days and the rough and rowdy cowboys,” says Johnson. “But what people don’t realize is that when you really get into the story [of Dodge], so much of what happened was very political. [In] most of the big arguments in Old Dodge City, a shot was never fired. It was all political and done on the election front.”


Mid-America All-Indian Museum, Wichita

What happens when citizenship does not lead to full electoral rights? The Mid-America All-Indian Museum’s Voices and Votes companion exhibition and programming explores the history of Native American voting rights. “The museum plans to shed light on the American Indian’s historic struggles and gains on the path to voting rights in the U.S.,” says Erin Raux, the museum’s director and curator. “Native people won citizenship in 1924, but the struggle for voting rights remains an issue today.”


Nicodemus Historical Society and Nicodemus National Historic Site

Nicodemus, the oldest and only remaining African American settlement west of the Mississippi River, was founded by newly freed slaves in the 1870s. “Nicodemus has many outstanding African American elected officials, the most notable being Edward P. McCabe who was the Nicodemus Town Co. secretary. He went on to become … the first African American to be elected to a state office in Kansas, serving two terms as Kansas state auditor,” says Ashley Adams, Nicodemus Historical Society secretary and descendant. The historical site’s local exhibition for Voices and Votes will focus on McCabe and other African American officials from the time as well as those of today.


Franklin County Historical Society, Ottawa

Throughout history, people have gone to incredible lengths to exercise their right to vote, as Franklin County Historical Society executive director Diana Staresinic-Deane explains. “Our [Voices and Votes companion] exhibit will include several local stories, but the special story for our area is that of the 43 naked voters of 1858.” As the story goes, these voters had to cross a rain-swollen creek to get to the polling location to vote to approve or reject the Lecompton Constitution. “These men took off all of their clothes to cross flooded creeks,” Staresinic-Deane says. “Once they reached the other side, they put on their shirts and their hats and went on to the polling station. They felt (voting) was so important, they were willing to risk their safety to do it.”

Winfield PL

Winfield Public Library

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens.” That’s the from the founding legislation of the National Endowment for the Humanities, but it also applies to the Winfield Public Library’s Voices and Votes plans. “Winfield is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2023, a natural opportunity for reflection,” says Joanna Brazil, Youth Services librarian. The library’s local story will focus on Chautauquas (educational assemblies popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). “The education movement of the Chautauqua thrived on the exchange of ideas,” Brazil says. “WPL will explore the Winfield Chautauquas and their significance to the region, particularly in the areas of education, political activism, and civic engagement.”


Republic County Historical Museum, Belleville

The role of the editorial press in the early 1900s is the theme of the Republic County Historical Museum’s Voices and Votes exhibition. We have in Belleville’s history a man named A.Q. Miller, who was the editor of the Belleville Telescope for a long time. And he was influential in getting the state of Kansas to construct a highway system” says Ed Glenn, director and curator for the historical society’s museum. “We are honoring him with an exhibition [as an example]of making your voice heard, in addition to voting.” Kansas State University’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication is named in his honor.


Voices and Votes: Democracy in America offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Kansans to experience the resources of the nation’s premier cultural institution in their own backyards. Visit for updates on the Voices and Votes Kansas tours.


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