Press Release


Apply to bring "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music" to your community.

CHICAGO -The Illinois Humanities Council invites smaller museums, libraries, and historical societies in towns of fewer than 30,000 residents to apply to host "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music," a Smithsonian traveling exhibition.

"New Harmonies" is a cultural history of America’s musical landscape. It’s the story of a diverse assortment of people interacting with a New World, a world where cultures and customs met, mixed, and mingled and created new sounds. The distinct cultural identities of all of these peoples are carried in song-both sacred and secular-and the music that emerges is known by names like blues, country, western, folk, jazz, and gospel. This exhibition tracks the unique history of many peoples reshaping each other into one incredibly diverse and complex people-Americans. As a unique traveling, multimedia exhibition, it is full of surprises about familiar songs, histories of instruments, the roles of religion and technology in shaping new sounds, and the continuity of musical roots from the colonial period to modern day rock and hip-hop.                    

"New Harmonies" will tour six Illinois communities from April 2010 to January 2011. Applications should be postmarked by January 31, 2009.  Selections will be announced by the end of March 2009. To request an application, call Ryan Lewis at 312.422.5585 x231 or visit

Sites will be chosen based on geographic location, strength of proposed ideas for auxiliary programming, and physical display space. The exhibition is comprised of six freestanding structures containing interactive components and artifacts mounted in cases, requiring 800 square ft. of display space with eight-foot ceilings, plus additional space for a local exhibit. Sites should also have access to standard electrical outlets.  

"New Harmonies" is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils nationwide. MoMS serves small-to medium-sized communities by bringing Smithsonian-quality exhibitions to local museums, historical societies, libraries, and community centers around the country.

The IHC will provide the following for each host community:

  • Rental of the Smithsonian exhibition for a six-week period
  • An exhibition support manual covering installation, object collection and conservation, public relations, and evaluation
  • Exhibition brochures and posters for distribution
  • Assistance in program planning and ready-made promotional materials such as Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
  • Travel expenses for a project director to attend the orientation, program planning, and installation workshops
  • $2,000 in grant funds in support of humanities programming, such as oral histories, guest lecturers, film series, artifact collections, workshops, reading discussion programs, dramatizations, etc.
  • Access to humanities scholars who will assist organizations with program planning and present an opening night performance
  • A committee of museum professionals who will provide technical assistance in all aspects of the exhibition

In return, host communities will be asked to:

  • Identify a staff member or volunteer who will serve as project director for its duration and attend the orientation, program planning, and installation workshops
  • Plan and implement public humanities programs during the exhibition
  • Track all staff and volunteer time, facilities, and other resources donated to the project and provide a report of this local cost share at the project’s conclusion
  • Pay and arrange for shipping

The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

# # #