Gold and blue triangle

Exploring Democracy with Southwest Brunswick Branch Library

North Carolina Humanities is proud to present the Smithsonian Institution exhibition “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America”. 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.

Six venues were selected by NC Humanities to host the exhibition around North Carolina in 2024-2025. As it travels, we are speaking with team members from each tour stop to discuss local issues, history, people, and stories, and to learn what visitors can expect to experience when they visit the exhibition in their space.

“Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is on display at Southwest Brunswick Branch Library in Carolina Shores, North Carolina from June 3 – July 13, 2024. To learn more about how to visit the exhibition and attend related events and programs in Carolina Shores, please visit:

The tour began at Iredell County Public Library in Statesville in April 2024. It is now on view at Southwest Brunswick Branch Library in Carolina Shores. Next, the exhibition will travel to Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, Alamance Community College in Graham, and Appalachian State University in Boone. The tour concludes at Henderson County Public Library in Hendersonville in January 2025.

We connected with Patricia Dew, library director for Brunswick County Library and Kristyna Savard, branch manager at the Southwest Brunswick Branch Library, to learn more.

Tell us about your community and the library!

Patricia: Brunswick County is in southeastern North Carolina next to the Cape Fear River. We have beaches, farmland, and swamps. Population-wise, it is the fastest growing county in North Carolina, and one of the fastest growing in the nation. It is a great tourist destination, but also great for everyday residents. Lots of people are retiring here or deciding that it’s a wonderful place to work from home. Brunswick County Library is a county supported entity and we have five branches. The library system provides all kinds of services, including volunteer tax assistance, providing computer lab space for people who do not have high speed internet, and of course we have books, eBooks, newspapers, magazines, and more. Everyone in Brunswick County can get a library card to use our services, and some services, such as coming to story time or using the computers, you don’t even have to have a card! You can just drop in, even if you’re visiting while on vacation.

Kristyna: The Southwest Brunswick Branch opened about six years ago and we are very community based. We often have over 700 people come through our doors daily. A good example of a program that we provide for the public is a hurricane preparedness workshop. We collaborate often with our community, and even serve as a voting precinct. That is really what made this opportunity from North Carolina Humanities eye-catching to us. North Carolina Humanities offers a lot of great things for our state. We’re very excited to host this exhibition and see it up and running.

What can people expect when they visit the library to see “Voices and Votes”? What related programs and opportunities are you offering?

Kristyna: Whenever the library is open, you can see the exhibition! Brunswick County Libraries are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-6pm, Tuesday and Thursday 9am-7pm, and Saturday 9am-5pm. We are also planning to have several different programs. On June 12 we collaborated with our local Board of Elections to host a free photo ID event. We are also going to host a history crawl throughout the tour! Patrons can pick up a pamphlet that will tell them about a historical landmark here in Brunswick County and how to visit it. If you visit all the landmarks and bring the pamphlet back you will get a small prize! We’re also going to do a special story time focused on democracy and voting on June 5 and June 19. We also invite everyone to join us on July 3 from 12noon- 2:00pm for our Independence Day bash where we will have summer treats for all ages. All our upcoming programs can be found on our website

We also want to invite anyone interested in supporting this exhibition and our library to become a volunteer. You can help us shelve books, help in the computer lab, or be a greeter! We also invite you to learn more about our Friends of the Southwest Brunswick Branch Library group. Our volunteers and Friends of the Library are appreciated and essential to the library.

Do you think libraries and the humanities are important?

Patricia: Absolutely! Libraries and the humanities are part of our collective cultural experience. Residents of a community must pay for services like water and fire protection, but we decide to have things like libraries, parks, senior centers; those things that make a community robust and unique. Where else can you see exhibits? Where else can you join in book discussions? Where else can you have places to learn about nature? It’s all part of the cultural experience. The humanities and libraries make our communities better places to live and create informational, cultural, recreational, and lifelong learning spaces.

About the exhibition: “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” is part of Museum on Main Street (MoMS), a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, including North Carolina Humanities, and local host institutions. “Voices and Votes” is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. called “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith”. North Carolina Humanities has worked with SITES for over a decade to bring MoMS exhibitions to North Carolina’s small towns and rural communities. Support for MoMS has been provided by the U.S. Congress. Thank you to our 2024-2025 statewide tour sponsors Our State Magazine, the National Humanities Center, and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, as well as the many local sponsors supporting the exhibit in their community. A full tour itinerary is available at North Carolina Humanities is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.