Press Release

Six Sites Chosen For Illinois Tour of New Smithsonian Exhibit “Hometown Teams”

CHICAGO, IL- May 7, 2013 A brand new, sports-related exhibit from the Smithsonian is coming to Illinois, and six towns will have the chance to share unique stories such as how the first NBA team in Illinois was not the Chicago Bulls, where in Illinois the commissioner of the World Kloepper League resides, and the legendary run to the state basketball championship final by a team called the Appleknockers.  

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is bringing to the state Hometown Teams, a new exhibit curated by the Smithsonian Institution that will seek to capture the history and pride of communities through the prism of sports. The towns and surrounding areas of Cobden, Mattoon, Nokomis, Waterloo, Rock Island, and Nauvoo, Illinois, have the distinction of hosting this never before seen exhibit for six-week spans beginning in March 2014. 

The exhibit seeks to use sports to reflect the trials and triumphs of the American experience that have shaped the country’s national character. All levels of sports will be covered, from professional match-ups to pick-up games on the local playground. The exhibition is national in theme and local in scope, with each site interpreting the exhibit to share their local history and sports heritage. 

It is in this aspect of the exhibit where each host site will have a chance to shine. Some of the many stories that will be showcased include that of the Tri-City Blackhawks, one of the first franchises in what eventually became the NBA, and their hall of fame coach Red Auerbach, Monroe County’s fascination with the card game Kloepper, Mattoon’s claim as “Baseball Capital of the World”, and the legendary 1964 run to the state basketball final by Cobden High School’s famous Appleknockers.  

“Illinois history is full of historic upsets, championship runs, rivalries, traditions, individuals and teams, each that tell a greater story about the region,” said Mallory Laurel, the IHC’s coordinator for the tour. “We hope to see these stories inspire pilgrimages from sports fans all over the state. It would be a testament to how sports can galvanize and unite communities.”   Laurel and other IHC staff will be working with the host sites throughout 2014 to help them prepare for the exhibit’s arrival.

Hometown Teams is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) 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 country and state of Illinois. The states of New Jersey, West Virginia, Nebraska, and Idaho are the other states who will be premiering the exhibit in 2014. 

The exhibit is scheduled to visit the following sites in Illinois:

  • Union County Museum w/Union County Historical & Genealogy Society, Cobden: March 1- April 14, 2014
  • City of Mattoon Tourism and Arts Department w/Coles County Historical Society, Mattoon: April 19- June 1, 2014
  • Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Museum, Nokomis: June 7-July 20, 2014
  • Waterloo Museum Society, Waterloo: July 26- September 7, 2014
  • Rock Island Public Library, Rock Island: September 13- October 26, 2014
  • Friends of Hancock County, Carthage: November 1- December 14, 2014 

Special events and presentations reflecting the local histories of each site will also take place. Visit the Illinois Humanities Council’s website at for additional information about Hometown Teams.  

About the Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. 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.  

Media Contact:
Carlos Velázquez
(312) 422-5580, x233  

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