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Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions

North Carolina Humanities organizes tours of Smithsonian Institution exhibitions in North Carolina to start dialogue, facilitate connections, open doors to community history, culture, people, and build a sense of local pride.

Photo from naturalization of Monticello 2013

About "Voices & Votes" - 2024/2025 Tour

North Carolina Humanities is touring Voices and Votes: Democracy in America in 2024 – 2025!

When American revolutionaries waged a war for independence they took a leap of faith that sent ripple effects across generations. They embraced a radical idea of establishing a government that entrusted the power of the nation not in a monarchy, but in its citizens. That great leap sparked questions that continue to impact Americans: who has the right to vote, what are the freedoms and responsibilities of citizens, and whose voices will be heard?

Voices and Votes: Democracy in America is a springboard for discussions about those very questions and how they are reflected in local stories. Our democracy demands action, reaction, vision, and revision. From 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.

Voices and Votes is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called American Democracy: A Great Leap of FaithVoices and Votes has many dynamic features including historical and contemporary photos; educational and archival video; interactive games; historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material; and more!

Visit "Voices & Votes" at...

Iredell County Public Library (Statesville)

April 17, 2024 – May 28, 2024

Southwest Brunswick Branch Library (Carolina Shores)

June 3, 2024 – July 13, 2024

Cumberland County Public Library (Fayetteville)

July 18, 2024 – Sept 2, 2024

Alamance Community College (Graham)

Sep 6, 2024 – Oct 17, 2024

Appalachian State University (Boone)

Oct 22, 2024 – Dec 2, 2024

Henderson County Public Library (Hendersonville)

Dec 7, 2024 – Jan 25, 2025

*dates are subject to change

Thank You to Our Statewide "Voices & Votes" Tour Sponsors

New Opportunity: Seeking 6 Venues to Host "Spark! Places of Innovation"

Children sitting in front of mural
Women standing in field with arms up in the air

About "Spark!" - 2025/2026 Tour

Applications Open: June 26, 2024

Applications Due: September 26, 2024

Tour Dates:  May 2025 – April 2026

Preview Application & Apply

The story of human history is written in inventions and innovations. People are problem-solvers. Sometimes we invent. More often, we innovate—we introduce a fresh idea or an invention into use in some way that creates a new way of doing or thinking. Invention can happen anywhere and it’s happening right now in small towns across America. Rural Americans are creating new products, taking risks, meeting challenges together, and seizing upon exciting opportunities that change local life and sometimes reach far beyond.

Spark! Places of Innovation explores the unique combination of places, people, and circumstances that sparks innovation and invention in rural communities. Inspired by an exhibition by the National Museum of American History, the exhibition features stories gathered from diverse communities across the nation. Photographs, engaging interactives, objects, videos, and augmented reality bring a multilayered experience to reveal the leaders, challenges, successes, and future of innovation in each town.

This exhibition will be the springboard for diverse local programming in the humanities, sciences, and arts. Visitors will be inspired to learn about how innovation has shaped their own communities and how they may be innovators themselves. Community members will come together in conversation about their history, present, and future.

Apply to Host "Spark!"

Exhibit Panel

This exhibition will explore questions such as:

  • What is the role of creative thinkers and inventors in a town?
  • What resources do towns have for innovation and invention?
  • How important is the role of self-expression and openness to change?
  • How does a place encourage risk-taking?
  • How can diversity spark innovation?


Woman standing in front of exhibit panel

  • Installation requires a minimum of 700 square feet of space with a ceiling height of at least 8’6”. If your space has columns or is across multiple galleries 1,000 square feet of space is recommended. The exhibit cannot be displayed outside, in a temporary structure, in or in hallways/corridors.
  • Space must ensure that the exhibit is not displayed in direct sunlight to maintain the integrity of exhibition panels.
  • Space must have access to electrical outlets (5 extension cords will be needed).
  • Includes six free-standing sections.
  • Includes audio and video media components as well as mechanical, tactile, and low‐tech interactives.
  • Includes various sized object cases.
  • Packed in 10-wheeled crates. Venue must have at least 200 sq ft of storage space for the crates (does not need to be climate controlled).


North Carolina Humanities invites museums, libraries, community venues and other cultural nonprofit organizations to apply. Priority is given to host venues in rural counties. Eligible applicants will:

  • Meet the minimum space requirements listed in the Exhibit Specification section (above) and ensure that the exhibit will be watched while open and secured when not open to the public.
  • Identify a two-person team who will manage the project for the venue.
  • Attend two mandatory NC Humanities-led trainings; a statewide Programming Meeting in December or January and an Installation Workshop in May 2025.
  • Ensure at least a 2:1 cost share match to NC Humanities grant to support the tour at your venue. Track and document all staff and volunteer time, facilities, and other resources donated to the project.
  • Plan and implement robust public humanities programs on the themes of the exhibit that leverage community partnerships and feature local stories/collections. At least one of these programs must focus on youth. Programs may occur before, during, or after the exhibition is at your venue.
  • Ensure widespread community participation through public relations campaigns and other promotional means.
  • Install and de-install the exhibition according to provided guidelines.
  • Have on-site staff presence when exhibition is open.
  • Track attendance, maintain budget and cost share records, and submit final program reports.

Venues receive the following from North Carolina Humanities:

  • The Spark! Places of Innovation exhibition for approximately six-weeks, rent free during the statewide tour, May 2025 – April 2026.
  • Free exhibition shipping.
  • Grant funds of up to $5,000 to support public, humanities-based programming, such as lecturers, film series, local exhibit development, oral history collection, workshops, reading and discussion programs, etc.
  • Travel expenses for a two-person venue team to attend required NC Humanities trainings.
  • An exhibition support manual covering installation, object collection, and conservation.
  • Public relations and promotional support including exhibition brochures and posters, press releases, and other promotional templates.
  • Expert guidance in program-planning from exhibition consultants, scholars, and humanities professionals
  • Capacity development support for their venue.
  • Dedicated NC Humanities staff support for program development, exhibition management, and other guidance.
  1. Preview the Application 
  2. Watch this video tutorial on the application process.
  3. Get started on your application HERE by clicking “Login/Create Account” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  4. We anticipate that decisions will be announced at the end of November, however this is subject to the volume of applications received. All decisions will be announced via our online application management system.
    • Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Submission of an application does not guarantee approval. Due to the high volume of applications, we will not be able to provide comments on award decisions.
    • If you do not have internet access, please call our office at (704) 687-1520.

Join us for one of our webinars where you will learn about the exhibition, the venue requirements, how to apply, and more. There is also plenty of time to ask questions. 

Contact Caitlin Patton Stanley, NC Humanities’ Director of Grants and Compliance, at or schedule a phone consultation.

Past Exhibitions: 2010-2023 Tours

Exhibition tours are part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. It is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) and state humanities councils nationwide, including North Carolina Humanities, that brings exhibitions and programs to small-town communities and residents of rural America. Support for MoMS has been provided by the United States Congress. 

Selected host sites receive and host exhibitions from North Carolina Humanities for approximately six weeks, rent-free. They may also receive up to $5,000 in grant funding to support the design and implementation of public programs, events, companion exhibits, and resources that enhance themes of each unique exhibition. 

Map of North Carolina showing the locations of Past Exhibitions

Photo of white barn on a field with hay bails surrounding it with the sun in the distance Crossroads: Change in Rural America offered communities a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition explored how rural America embraces the notion that their citizens and their cultural uniqueness are important assets. All Americans benefit from rural America’s successes, and we can learn great things from listening to those stories.

The tour was supported in part by the National Humanities Center, the NC Rural Center, North Carolina Sea Grant, and NC Water Resources Research Institute.

The exhibition was on view at: 

  • Iredell Museums (Statesville)
  • Joyner Library at East Carolina University (Greenville)
  • Granville County Historical Society and Museum (Oxford)
  • Museum of the Albemarle (Elizabeth City)
  • Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University (Cullowhee)
  • Onslow County Museum (Richlands)

Flock of white pelicansWater/Ways explored the relationships between people and water – environmentally, culturally, and historically. It examined water as an essential natural resource that allows us to travel, determines where we live, controls what we eat and drink, and inspires culture.

Looking to learn more about Water/WaysDownload and print the official North Carolina Water/Ways Coloring Guidebook! 

The tour was supported in part by the National Humanities Center, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina Sea Grant, NC Water Resources Research Institute, and Our State Magazine. 

The exhibition was on view at:

  • Macon County Public Library (Franklin)
  • Wake Forest Historical Museum (Wake Forest)
  • NC Estuarium (Washington)
  • Wrightsville Beach Museum (Wrightsville Beach)
  • Alamance Community College (Graham)
  • Yancey County Public Library (Burnsville)

Two woman delivering iceThe Way We Worked showcased American workers performing a diverse array of jobs that power our society and contribute to our shared culture. It traced the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and increasing use of technology. The tour was supported in part by the Porter Durham Family. 

The exhibition was on view at: 

  • Eastern Cabarrus Historical Society (Mt. Pleasant)
  • Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (Blowing Rock)
  • Cowan Museum of History & Science (Kenansville)
  • Cumberland County Public Library (Fayetteville)
  • Historical Association of Catawba County (Newton)
  • Mountain Heritage Center (Cullowhee)

Football players getting ready to start a playHometown Teams: How Sports Shape America explored the value of sports in history ranging from ancient Cherokee Indians with anetso, the ancestor of modern day lacrosse, to current day professional teams such as the Carolina Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. 

The exhibition was on view at: 

  • Mount Airy Museum of Regional History (Mount Airy)
  • Wake Forest Historical Museum (Wake Forest)
  • Waterworks Visual Arts Center (Salisbury)
  • Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center (Harkers Island)
  • Transylvania County Library (Brevard)
  • Iredell County Public Library (Statesville)

Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer Journey Stories examined the tales of how we and our ancestors came to America. From Native Americans to new American citizens, regardless of our ethnic or racial background, everyone has a story to tell. 

The exhibition was on view at: 

  • Pender County Public Libraries (Burgaw)
  • The Museum and Archives of Rockingham County (Wentworth)
  • Mountain Heritage Center (Cullowhee)
  • North Carolina Museum of the Coastal Plain (Wilson)
  • North Carolina Transportation Museum (Spencer)
  • Robeson County History Museum (Lumberton)

Gottlieb, William P. -- 1917- (photographer)New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music took rural communities in North Carolina on a journey through the development of Americans’ creative expression through music. The story was full of surprises about familiar songs, histories of instruments, the roles of religion and technology, and the continuity of musical roots from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to the latest pop hit.

The exhibition was on view at: 

  • Mount Airy Museum of Regional History (Mount Airy)
  • Warren County Memorial Library (Warrenton)
  • Museum of the Albemarle (Elizabeth City)
  • Arts Council of Wayne County (Goldsboro)
  • Rural Heritage Museum (Mars Hill)
  • Don Gibson Theatre (Shelby)