Smithsonian exhibit coming to Carthage will highlight national, local sports

“Hometown Teams: Sports in American Communities,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, opened Saturday in Cobden and will visit Mattoon, Nokomis, Waterloo and Rock Island before its Nov. 1-Dec. 14 stop in Carthage. (Submitted Photo)
Posted: Mar. 8, 2014 6:37 pm Updated: Mar. 30, 2014 1:14 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- A traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution is on its way to Carthage this year.

"Hometown Teams: Sports in American Communities" celebrates the connection between Americans and hometown sports.

The Illinois Humanities Council is bringing the exhibit to six Illinois communities, providing a chance to showcase local history against a national backdrop.

"It encompasses such a wide range of interests that even if you're not a sports lover, you'll be amazed at the quality of the exhibition and how they've pieced all the different aspects together," Amy Graham, director of Carthage Community Development, said.

The exhibit opened Saturday in Cobden, then will visit Mattoon, Nokomis, Waterloo and Rock Island before its Nov. 1-Dec. 14 stop in Carthage.

"We've got a lot of work to do between now and November," Kim Orth, executive director of the Nauvoo Tourism Office, said.

The new exhibit will be similar in style to "Journey Stories," another traveling Smithsonian exhibit which was on display in fall 2012 in Nauvoo, but with a twist tied to the county's nine largest communities -- Augusta, Bowen, Carthage, Dallas City, Hamilton, LaHarpe, Nauvoo, Plymouth and Warsaw.

"With each of those nine major communities working on their own local exhibits, it will be an opportunity to showcase their past and celebrate what they've accomplished and then show how Hancock County as a whole has embraced sports, community leagues, our schools and different championships," Graham said. "We're proud of our own teams in each of our own towns, but we're also very proud to be from Hancock County."

Exhibits will be on display in each community, then a cumulative local version will be paired with the Smithsonian's presentation in Carthage.

Putting together the exhibits will pull together the county "and help focus on our future and where we need to go while paying proper respect to where we've been," Orth said.

The exhibit seeks to use sports to reflect the trials and triumphs of the American experience that have shaped the country's national character, as well as to capture the history and pride of communities through the prism of sports. All levels of sports will be covered, from professional match-ups to pick-up games on the local playground.

"It's not all about those individual and team sports that traditionally come to mind," Graham said. "We've had bridge leagues, bowling, fishing -- things that you don't traditionally think of as a team sport but something that has played an important part in the culture of the community."

Graham and Orth got to see the national exhibit at an installation workshop last month in Cobden, and Carthage will host an exhibition workshop this month for groups from Waterloo, Rock Island and Hancock County to share ideas and begin to piece together local displays.

"Of the sites, we're the only one countywide with this many local exhibits being put together," Graham said. "It's quite an undertaking, but we're hoping we can help our communities collaborate and work together to promote the county as a whole."

Hometown Teams is part of the Museum on Main Street program, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the IHC. MoMS serves small- to medium-sized communities across Illinois by bringing Smithsonian-quality exhibitions to local museums, historical societies, libraries and community centers around the state.



A piece of the Hancock County sports scene is part of "Hometown Teams: Sports in American Communities," a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution. The Illini West High School marching band is part of the national exhibit's interactive piece, Spirit of the Game.

The Smithsonian welcomed submissions of photos and videos of marching bands, cheerleaders and "all those components that accompany the game," Amy Graham, director of Carthage Community Development, said.

She submitted footage of the band from the first football game of this school year, and people viewing the interactive exhibit can click on Illinois, then on Illini West to see the clip.

"It's cool to have that as part of the national exhibit," Graham said. "It will go all over the country."