Smithsonian exhibit brought in 2,801 visitors

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped take the exhibit down Monday morning. It will ship to Atlanta, Illinois on Tuesday. Photo by Kennedy Nolen.

Nearly 3,000 guests visited the traveling Smithsonian exhibit "Crossroads: Changes in Rural America" when it was housed at the Visitors Center in Shelbyville for the past six weeks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers packed up the exhibit Monday morning so it would be ready to ship to the Atlanta Public Library in LOgan County, southwest of Bloomington, on Tuesday.

The display traveled from Washington, D.C. to two locations prior to Shelbyville, and will make three more stops to show changes in rural America. A requirement for the exhibit is for the hosting town to also create a display showing changes.

Businesses in the community, such as Sloan Implement, SSI, Shelby County State Bank, Shelby Electric Cooperative, KSI Laboratories, Sta-Rite Ginnie Lou Inc., Lake Land College and South Central FS, provided displays for the companion exhibit which went along with the main display provided by the Smithsonian.

Shelby Electric showed changes and progression of electricity throughout the years, and SSI displayed changes in technology and the benefits of such.

Sta-Rite displayed information on patents they have, and Lake Land College explained educational changes that have taken place over the years.

KSI Laboratories had a large bookcase with small model tractors, and Shelby County State Bank had old ledgers on display, which were used to keep track of withdrawals and deposits.

Ashley Florey, Lake Shelbyville's Natural Resources Specialist, said history of Shelby County businesses were all in one room. This made for easy access, rather than people digging for information and compiling it themselves.

"Having it all in one room really responded well to the public," Florey said.

Many entertainers and public speakers made their ways to the Visitors Center to supplement the exhibit.

Freddie Fry, Director of Shelby County Tourism, and Florey both agreed the the most interesting speaker was Road Scholar Cynthia Clampitt who discussed how corn changed itself.

During the summer of 2017, the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee applied for Shelbyville to be a stop on this small-town tour, Brenda Elder, the director of the committee, said.

She said the city and county put about $4,000 together to give the committee for the events, but a lot of it was saved for the Museum on Main.

Due to weather restrictions, many events put on by entertainers were postponed and moved to this past Saturday, the final day of the exhibit.

Florey said partners and stakeholders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were able to view the exhibit when they made a stop.

The most attended event was Saturday, Dec. 15. Kevin Corley and Douglas King presented history about the could mining industry in Central Illinois.

Groups that traveled to the exhibit included 90 Shelbyville 5th graders, 83 students from Beecher City High School, 53 Windsor 5th graders and 6th graders, 40 Okaw Valley 5th graders and FFA members, 20 students from the Shelby County CEO program and 60 people from Shelby County Community Services.

Florey said not everyone filled out comments, but no negative reviews were received.

Fry said this exhibit was a wish when they applied for it. The group did not know what to expect, since this was the first time doing something like this.

"It was a success. Of course, I wish the weather would have gone a little better," she said.

When you go to museums in cities, people do not really see a representation of rural America, Fry said. "You never see us in the exhibits. When we looked at the Smithsonian display, there was so much of ourselves in there."

Elder said the list of people to thank are endless, but she appreciates the help of absolutely everyone involved.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at or 217-774-2161 etc. 1.

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