Press Release

Host Communities Sought for Smithsonian Travelling Exhibition on Water


CHICAGO, IL- February 5, 2015 —  Bounded by several of the most important rivers on our continent and one of the Great Lakes, Illinois has been influenced profoundly by water throughout its history. The Illinois Humanities Council will bring the Smithsonian exhibition, Water: Resource for Life to Illinois in 2016, and is seeking organizations in small Illinois towns to host the exhibition.

Water: Resource for Life will examine the monumental cultural impact of water, past and present, from a wide variety of perspectives. The application form, which provides information about the requirements and opportunities associated with hosting Water: Resource for Life, is available at  The submission deadline is April 17, 2015.

The exhibition is part of Museum on Main Street, a program between the IHC and the Smithsonian Institution that offers high-quality traveling exhibitions to small museums, libraries, and historical societies in rural Illinois towns. These organizations develop locally focused companion exhibits that relate the subject matter of the Smithsonian exhibits to the histories of their own communities and regions. They also host public programs exploring topics and themes addressed by the exhibits. Participation in Museum on Main Street enables the organizations to attract new audiences and volunteers, expand their knowledge and resource bases, and develop skills that can be applied toward future exhibits and programs. 

“It’s a way of hallmarking and saying, ‘Hey you live in a community that has rich history and it’s really something to be proud of,” said Ron McCutchen, Library program director of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, Illinois. The library hosted the Smithsonian exhibition, Journey Stories in 2012. It’s in a way instilling some civic pride and awareness and having the whole community come together and celebrate that and learn something.”

“The Illinois tour of Water: Resource for Life will present an exciting opportunity for communities throughout our state to share stories about water’s influence on their histories and identities, reflect on the many ways in which water is significant in their lives at present, and discuss critical water-related issues that could affect their futures,” said Matt Meacham, a program coordinator with the Illinois Humanities Council.

“Water frequently serves as a vital symbol in our literature, visual art, music, folklore, and religious life. Many of our most pressing public policy issues, from flood control to fracking, involve water. For all of these reasons, Water: Resource for Life is sure to stimulate meaningful reflection and constructive conversation among Illinoisans,” he commented.

Meacham added that although hosting a Museum on Main Street exhibit is a significant undertaking, the rewards are often remarkable. Organizations have reported considerable increases in visitation and fundraising, achieved new levels of professionalism, and dramatically enhanced their roles in their communities and regions as a result of participating in the program.

The Illinois Humanities Council selects six organizations to participate in each exhibit tour. For more information, contact Matt Meacham at or (312) 422-5589.

About the Illinois Humanities Council 

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a mission to strengthen society by fueling inquiry and conversation about the ideas and works that shape our culture. 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.