Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Examining Democracy in America Coming to Claflin University

Oct 14, 2022

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, in cooperation with SC Humanities presents “Voices and Votes: Democracy in American.” 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 Arthur Rose Museum on the campus of Claflin University on October 29, 2022, "Voices and Votes” will be on view through December 10.
Claflin University and the surrounding community has been chosen by SC Humanities 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.
“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.
“‘Voice and Votes’ allows us to reflect on Orangeburg’s rich history dealing with democracy and race, and to explore what it means to be an active participant in the governance of not only the country but also this community,” said Robert Greene II, assistant professor of history at Claflin. “We want to convene conversations. We worked hard to develop this local exhibition and public programs to complement the Smithsonian exhibition.” Such free events include the grand opening event on Tuesday, November 1, at 6 p.m., as Dr. Robert Greene II, assistant professor of history at Claflin University and co-chair of the “Voices and Votes” exhibit committee for Claflin, will give a talk titled “Orangeburg and the Crucible of Democracy.” This talk will highlight how the city of Orangeburg has long served as a critical battleground for democracy and voting rights in the history of South Carolina and the United States.
On Monday, November 7, the “Voices and Votes” programming will continue with two events. At 6 p.m. legendary photographer and civil rights advocate Cecil Williams will participate in a forum discussion about the intersection of photography, the arts, civil rights, and democracy. That evening will also host an Orangeburg County School District Voting Sticker Student Art Contest. The stickers, judged by “Voices and Votes” Claflin co-chair Dr. Indira Bailey, will represent what the next generation sees as the importance of participatory democracy. Finally, on November 15 at 6 p.m., Claflin University will host University of South Carolina-Columbia professor Dr. Todd Shaw, who will participate in a roundtable discussion titled “South Carolina and Southern Politics: Where Do We Go From Here?”
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. With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits; host public programs and facilitate educational initiatives to raise people’s understanding about their own history, the joys and challenges of living rural, and how change has impacted their community; and prompt discussion of goals for the future.
“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 Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress.
Events will be hosted at the Arthur Rose Museum at Claflin University. The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission for all events is free and open to the public.

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