Smithsonian exhibit leaves lasting impression in Nauvoo

Posted: Nov. 16, 2012 8:04 am Updated: Dec. 7, 2012 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

NAUVOO, Ill. -- The Smithsonian's "Journey Stories" exhibit has moved on from Nauvoo to its next stop in Princeton, but the local portion of the exhibit will remain on display through next summer.

Other remnants from the national exhibit, from a strong volunteer base to a budding relationship with the Illinois Humanities Council, could open the community to more possibilities in the future.

"I see some things coming together," Tourism Director Kim Orth said.

"Just going through the process of having one exhibit in this area I think we've learned a lot of lessons. I know everybody has been complimentary of what we did, and I'm proud of what we did do, but I think there's ways we can improve on it."

Orth said plans already call for a traveling exhibit from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, highlighting weapons and medicine of the Civil War, to be on display in the tourism office in June.

In addition, Orth said work has begun on an application to host another Smithsonian exhibit, the newest still-in-curation Hometown Teams, in 2014. "It would have a bigger potential impact than what Journey Stories did," Orth said.

The Journey Stories project was made possible by the Illinois Humanities Council and is part of the Museum on Main Street program, which partners with state humanities councils and other institutions to bring Smithsonian traveling exhibitions to small towns. More than 3,000 people visited the exhibit focused on immigration, migration, innovation and freedom along with close to 500 area school children and teachers.

Three humanities programs targeted "journeying through music," Icarian furniture making and journeys to and through Nauvoo. Several mini programs at various locations around Nauvoo featured area resident sharing their personal "journey stories."

A core group of people -- representing the Nauvoo Historical Society, Nauvoo Tourism Office, Historic Nauvoo, Community of Christ and Sts. Peter and Paul Church -- along with several "independent volunteers" met twice a week to plan the local portion of the Journey Stories exhibit featuring photographs and written information.

The local exhibit highlighted the effect of the Des Moines Rapids and the Mississippi River on Nauvoo and the four main groups of inhabitants of Nauvoo -- the Mormons, Icarians, Germans and Catholics.

"It was a really great experience to have done this, to work with everybody we worked with. It took a massive amount of people to accomplish it," Orth said. "People really weren't quite aware of what all we were putting together, what it was going to look like. We even amazed ourselves with that."

Orth said working with the Humanities Council was especially valuable for this exhibit and for the future.

"Just knowing what all they do, what kind of services they provide to the state," Orth said. "The contacts, the networking this whole process has facilitated will be quite wonderful to work on things in the future."