November 1, 2017

Chester Library to be first host of Smithsonian exhibit

Illinois Humanities has announced that the Chester Public Library has been selected to be the first exhibition site for Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a new Museum on Main Street exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Institution that will examine the impact of rural American culture upon the identity of the United States, past and present.

The six sites chosen for the Illinois tour are:

Sept 8- Oct 20, 2018: Chester Public Library, Chester Ill.

Oct 27- Dec 8, 2018: Old School Museum, Winchester Ill.

Dec 15, 2018 -Jan 26, 2019 Lake Shelbyville Visitors Center, Shelbyville Ill.

Feb 2- March 16, 2019: Atlanta Public Library and Museum, Atlanta Ill.

March 23- May 4, 2019: Marshall Public Library, Marshall Ill.

May 11-June 22, 2019: Sycamore History Museum, Sycamore Ill.

Museum on Main Street is a program conducted cooperatively by the Smithsonian and state humanities councils nationwide that gives rural Americans opportunities to experience world-class exhibitions in their own communities and enables the organizations that host the exhibitions to enhance their capacities in a variety of ways.

Crossroads will describe the views of various cultural communities regarding the use and management of land and will examine the role of land in the formation of local economies. It will also discuss the emergence of rural communities and the evolution of their economic and social structures, especially during the period of rapid change in the mid-20th century. Importantly, it will explore ways in which rural communities are responding effectively to challenges in the 21st century and invite communities to contemplate their own potential paths into the future.

"Illinois’s rural communities have played and continue to play a critical role in the history and culture of our state, and we are grateful to have the chance to work with the Smithsonian both to serve rural communities and to examine the development of rural Illinois," said Angel Ysaguirre executive director of Illinois Humanities. "The level of interest in the topic is evidenced by the fact that we received a record number of applications to host this exhibition."

The Illinois tour of Crossroads coincides with the state’s Bicentennial and will underscore the significance of rural communities throughout its history. Chester the first community to host the exhibition, is in close proximity to Illinois' first capital, Kaskaskia, and to the American Bottom farmland that was vital to the state’s economy in its early years.

Additionally, Chester-area native Debra Reid, curator of agriculture and the environment at The Henry Ford in Michigan, is one of the curators of the exhibition.

"It’s appropriate that the Chester Public Library help launch the new Museum on Main Street exhibition, Crossroads: Change in Rural America," said Reid. "Chester sits on the mighty Mississippi, the heart of a transportation system that defined the nation.

Crossroads encourages us to put that national story into local context, exploring decisions to stay rather than move on, and investigating the strategies that help Illinoisans survive and thrive at their own personal crossroads."

With assistance from Illinois Humanities, each site will develop a companion exhibition and produce public programming that will link the subject matter of the Smithsonian exhibition to the history and culture of its own community.

Illinois Humanities works to build dialogue across all sectors of society to examine issues important to democracy in the focus areas of public policy, media & journalism, business, and art. Using the humanities as a tool to stimulate discussion, we create experiences across Illinois through programming, events, and grantmaking to engage a diverse public on ideas and issues that matter.

For more information about Illinois Humanities and Museum on Main Street visit: