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‘Journey Stories’ Smithsonian exhibition opens Nov. 18 at Princeton Public Library

This article originally appeared in The Bureau County Republican News

PRINCETON — “Journey Stories,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, will open at the Princeton Public Library on Nov. 18 and continue through Dec. 29. The Princeton library was chosen by the Illinois Humanities Council as one of six sites in Illinois to host the exhibition.

“Journey Stories” looks at the flow of American history from the viewpoint of mobility: Of our right to move about as we please, to pull up stakes, and all the human experiences that go with it. Through engaging images, audio and artifacts, the exhibit will explore the stories of people leaving behind everything – voluntarily or involuntarily – to reach a new life in a new place. The exhibit will also examine the intersection between modes of travel and Americans’ desire to feel free to move through the accounts of individuals and families relocating in search of fortune, their own homestead, or employment; the harrowing journeys of Africans and Native Americans forced to move; and, of course, fun and frolic on the open road.

“You have to look in the diaries, the entries, interview people, look at old accounts, and get the flavor of what it was like to be mobile,” said William Withuhn, the curator of the exhibit and curator of transportation for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “We are a nation of immigrants; we are a nation of people who were here already, who were very mobile. Some of us came in chains; some of us came dreaming of something better. And focusing on that, rather than just the history of a place, but indeed, how people got there; I think is actually a fundamental part of the American story.”

While on display, the “Journey Stories” exhibition will be complemented by a local exhibition and a wide array of weekly programs and performances. Among the programs planned are journey stories in American music, the odyssey of Native Americans displaced from this area in the 19th century, and the journey of crops in our rural economy from market to table.

“It is always the goal of the library to include and share the talent and treasure of the Princeton community,” said Margaret Martinkus, curator at Princeton Public Library. “This exhibit focuses on the movement and diversity of Americans. Hosting this exhibit during the holiday season will feature our town at an opportune time and will allow us to include some of Princeton’s true wealth of people, places and especially its rich traditions. I’m looking forward to working with organizations and the business community as we share our own ‘Journey’ story.”

Organizations partnering with the Princeton Public Library include the Bureau County Historical Society, Bureau County Tourism, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, Friends in Council, Bureau County Farm Bureau and the Friends of the Princeton Public Library.

A complete schedule of programs and performances will be available through the Princeton Public Library’s website, All programs are free including the opening reception and program on Nov. 18, with Illinois humanities scholar Dr. Dennis Cremin talking about “Journey Stories: From Our Backyard to the Nation.” As Illinois State Scholar for the “Journey Stories” exhibit, he will reflect on the major themes of the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit as well as the local components of the exhibit as it has made its way through Illinois.

The “Journey Stories” exhibition may be viewed during the library’s regular hours, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For guided tours of the exhibition, call the library at 815-875-1331. The library is located at 698 E. Peru St. in Princeton.

“Journey Stories” is part of the Museum on Main Street program, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Illinois Humanities Council.