Step through the door into our political history. The Prescott Public Library is the first venue in the nation to present Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, an in-depth exploration of voting and public participation in our society.
After checking in at the desk, where you can pick up literature or a face mask and a dollop of hand sanitizer, you're free to explore the fascinating and often interactive displays, each focused on a major aspect of how, through growth, change and conflict over three centuries, we have built the systems by which we choose the people who represent us in office and make our voices heard at every level of government.
Limiting the number of visitors to the traveling exhibit in the Founders Suite offers a lot of space to read, consider and absorb. The displays are densely packed, but carefully edited to build illuminating narratives and surprising perspectives.
Samantha Anderson, grants manager for the Arizona Humanities foundation, which is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution to bring the exhibition to the state, is very excited to see it open: "The exhibit sparks a lot of great conversations around the topics, offering a wide perspective and presenting as many sides of a story as we can. You take from it to build your own ideas."
Voices and Votes is a presentation of Museum on Main Street, a collaborative program between the Smithsonian and state humanities councils across the nation, and based on an exhibition by the National Museum of American History.
The show is designed for exactly the sort of venue the Library represents, smaller spaces in schools, museums and other public buildings that are close to the communities they serve. The intimacy of the space helps bring people together on the ideas, too.
AZ Humanities Programs Manager Chris Wells especially enjoys how visitors can explore together. "What gets me most excited is that this is a space to convene conversation about issues of the day. Each section opens up a bit of history, exposing chapters that are often overlooked. Whenever I see it, it makes me want to go and google something!"
We're all part of this
Leading the project, Library Manager of Public Services Martha Baden faced some complex challenges: "We weren’t sure we would be able to host the exhibit until just a few weeks before opening. Finding a way to balance public safety during this time and offering this enriching opportunity was tricky, but I believe we have accomplished that."
Adult Services Librarian Rosemary Medrano and Sharlot Hall Museum Curator Kylin Cummings collaborated to assemble the associated exhibit on our local political history. "Packing a couple of hundred years of history into a tight space" made for a challenging assignment, but Medrano dug in to "tell the stories of diverse subjects in ways that they would want to tell them."
Among the many panels on local leaders, she's particularly proud of the one on former City Councilman Dick Cooper and wife Lula Cooper. "They had such outstanding lives and careers, but good information on them was hard to find. There was so much more that I had no idea about!"
Sharlot Hall Museum and community partners lent photos and artifacts to "help tell the story of what happens when individuals decide to make a change."
The local exhibit is on the second floor in the Viewerie, with a concentrated display of related books, audio and video to explore.
A Broad View
The exhibition explores historic events and poses questions for today in five areas of major content.
The Great Leap: Examine the context and main controversies behind America’s democratic system. Learn the stories of our famous founders and those who remain mostly unknown. What were the principles and events that inspired the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Just how revolutionary was our new democracy led by the people? And who were “the people?”
A Vote, A Voice: We have a diverse body of voters today, but the right to vote has not always been extended to every American. The fight for fair representation, suffrage and a voice at the polls has meant struggle and changes to law ever since our founding. Learn about these struggles, how voting has expanded, and continuing challenges to getting the vote.
The Machinery of Democracy: We participate in the political system through state and national parties, nomination conventions, and stumping for our candidate of choice. Learn about this machinery of democracy, how it calls us to be involved and can control how we access information about candidates and issues.
Beyond the Ballot: Americans fight injustice. Men and women of every ethnicity, class and state have shared in the revolutionary spirit of rising up and speaking out. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees this right to peaceably assemble and petition the government. See how diverse Americans come from different places and motivations to petition for their interests and concerns.
Creating Citizens: Who are “We the People?” What is the meaning of citizenship? Ever since the creation of the Constitution Americans have interpreted, expanded and shaped the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen. Explore how those views of rights and responsibilities have shaped our national identity and our complex national story.
Voices and Votes has been made possible by Arizona Humanities. Voices and Votes: Democracy in America is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. It is based on an exhibition by the National Museum of American History. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of the Prescott Public Library.
Online programs add depth
Voices and Votes Lectures via Zoom
Visit the Ask a Librarian desk, call 928-777-1526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the Zoom invitation. (Call-in option available, no computer required.)
Fierce Femininity: Arizona Women Who Stepped Up
Thursday July 9, 6pm via Zoom
Author and historian Lisa Schnebly Heidinger will talk about Arizona women who were (sometimes) well-behaved while blazing trails. This is a colorful collection of our first female politicians, some of them fearless early businesswomen, and pioneers who defined courage in a whole new way.
Through My Eyes: The Impact of Implicit Bias
Wednesday July 15, 6pm
Speaker Matthew Whitaker: "We come from different places and backgrounds. Our life experiences and backgrounds can affect the way we see the world and each other, for better or worse. What is implicit bias, and how does it shape our attitudes and actions toward others? How do stereotypes affect our understanding, actions, and decisions? 'Implicit bias' can cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance. How can we learn to navigate the world we see through our own eyes and the world as seen through those of people different from us?"
Virtual Movie Screenings with Kanopy
See these films by visiting prescott.kanopy.com. You can sign in with your Prescott Public Library card or your email and password. Follow us on Facebook to join the conversation online.
Based on a true story, a struggling inner-city mother sacrifices everything to give her son a good education and launches a movement that could save his future and that of thousands like him. PG-13.
Little Pink House
Catherine Keener plays a small-town nurse from Connecticut who gets embroiled in one of America's most controversial legal battles while fighting to save her neighborhood from corporate interests. PG-13
Update: The Voices and Votes exhibit has left the library but you can view the virtual tour below!