VOICES AND VOTES: Smithsonian voting exhibit coming to Catfish Row Museum

Published 10:01 am Friday, November 4, 2022

The Catfish Row Museum in downtown Vicksburg will soon host a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program called “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.”

The exhibit focuses on the history of voting and voting rights in America.

Linda Fondren, the Executive Director of the Catfish Row Museum, said she is excited to bring an exhibit on such a vital aspect of American life to the area.

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“The part I think is so important is that in Warren County, many citizens won’t have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in and enjoy the Smithsonian Institute,” she said. “So through programs like the Museum on Main Street from the Smithsonian, we can offer our small town an opportunity to participate in a national exhibition at the Catfish Row Museum.”

The exhibit will feature artifacts and documents from the history of Americans’ push to make democracy available to everyone, as well as interactive multimedia pieces.

“It explores the challenges and triumphs that generations of Americans encountered as they sought to create a government based on the sovereignty of the people,” Fondren said.

The Exhibit will be open to the public later this month.

“The arrival of a very large semi-truck will deliver 16 cases of exhibit artifacts and the framework of the exhibit on Nov. 15. The fun part is we have to put all the pieces together,” Fondren said. “The exhibition kickoff will be celebrated with a Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Nov. 22.”

One part of the exhibit that Fondren said she is particularly excited about is called the American Experiments.

“(That part) has four game activities that give participants a chance to discuss ideas and think about the questions that faced generations of Americans,” she said. “We want to share these games with our schools, the library, the senior center and community gathering places. “

Fondren said that the program came to fruition on part because it was brought to her attention by Kim Hopkins, Executive Director of the Vicksburg Mainstreet Program.

“Catfish Row Museum is a direct reflection of the culture and life of Vicksburg in history. Voices and Votes is a wonderful addition to the museum,” Hopkins said. “This Smithsonian exhibit will not only educate tourists that stop in there, but also our school-age children, about the ripple effect our voices have on this nation.”

Fondren explained that the museum has plans to create a permanent local civil rights exhibit to be created after Voices and Votes leaves town in January. The permanent exhibit is made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that provides library grants, museum grants, policy development and research.

“We want to expose locals and visitors to African Americans’ history, stories and contributions and their roles in shaping Vicksburg’s rich and complex history,” she said.

For more information about the Catfish Row Museum and exhibits, visit catfishrowmuseum.org.