Celebrating democracy

New Carnegie exhibit goes back to the basics of government


As she planned a new exhibit on democracy at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County, director Kat Burkhart realized some visitors didn’t know the difference between the White House and U.S. Capitol Building.

The exhibit, “We the People, Me the Person” which opens next week, goes back to the basics of the nation’s government and highlights county natives from both parties who were active in local, state and national politics.

“It’s an overview, but it’s a celebration of democracy,” said Burkhart, who gave tours of the U.S. Supreme Court building in her first museum job.

The museum asked for signs, buttons and other campaign materials promoting former candidates. The Carnegie maintains collections for former Indiana Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy, a Montgomery County native, and the late Crawfordsville Mayor Will H. Hays.

A Wheaties box with Gilroy’s picture was displayed next to an array of buttons for “Ike” Eisenhower, then-Gov. Evan Bayh and his running mate, Frank O’Bannon. The exhibit also features a local 1920 election precinct book.

Visitors can stand in front of a green screen placing themselves inside historical events and read questions from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services civics test. The exhibit also features the “Schoolhouse Rock” segment on how a bill becomes law in Congress and video of celebrities reading the nation’s founding documents.

A timeline of the women’s suffrage movement is part of a section on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which opened the ballot box to women nationwide. The museum partnered with the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County to highlight notable people from the era.

The exhibit also uses research from a U.S. Census class at Wabash College for a section on the once-a-decade population count. American currency will also be featured.

A Montgomery County Community Foundation grant provided funding for the exhibit. The exhibit opens with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 27.

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with additional tours by appointment. Admission is free.

Other local political memorabilia is on display throughout the museum, including a gear-and-level voting machine. Late Crawfordsville Mayor Dave Gerard’s work as creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip “Citizen Smith” is also noted. Gerard autographed a strip for Hays, who preceded him as mayor.

In the strip, Citizen Smith arrives in the waiting room of a mayor’s office where dour-faced residents are waiting in front of signs reading chuckholes, schools and taxes.

“Select your category and be seated, sir. The mayor will see you presently!” the secretary says.