Museum on Main Street

Hero MO Ms Spark in Hillsboro 0823

Spark! Places of Innovation, the newest Museum on Main Street exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Illinois Humanities, will tour Illinois from June 17, 2023, to March 29, 2024. Organizations in seven communities statewide will host the exhibition and will produce companion exhibitions and public programs relating the subject matter of Spark! to their own local history and culture.

Learn more below and visit Spark! in a town near you!

Companion Exhibit in Equality IL

A companion exhibition detailing the history of salt extraction in Gallatin County in Equality, Ill.

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Guests view Spark! Places of Innovation and Imagine Hillsboro’s locally-focused supplementary exhibition during the opening of Spark! at the Hillsboro Public Library. 

About Spark! Places of Innovation

Touring Illinois June 17, 2023 – March 29, 2024

Spark! Places of Innovation highlights innovation in rural America from the perspectives of people who have lived it. Their words, images, and experiences, gathered through an ambitious crowdsourcing initiative, are the heartbeat of the exhibition. The communities featured in Spark! – including seven small towns in Illinois – have enhanced their vitality through innovations in fields such as technology, agriculture, economic development, education, and the arts.

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Spark! Places of Innovation during the exhibition’s opening at Hillsboro Public Library.

Tour Schedule

June 17 - July 22, 2023: Equality, Illinois

The Gallatin County Tourism Committee will host Spark! in Equality and present free events and a companion exhibit detailing the history of salt extraction in Gallatin County.

Opening Hours: 

  • Fridays: 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. CST
  • Saturdays: 12:00 - 7:00 p.m. CST
  • Sundays: 12:00 - 3:00 p.m. CST

Location: Ohio River Visitors Center | 101 West Lane Street | Equality, IL

July 29 - September 2, 2023: Hillsboro, Illinois

Imagine Hillsboro will host Spark! in Hillsboro and present free events and a companion exhibit examining the history of locally owned newspapers and how they’ve covered and interpreted significant events in local history.

Opening Hours: 

  • Monday – Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. CST
  • Friday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. CST
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. CST

Location: Hillsboro Public Library | 420 South Main Street | Hillsboro, IL

September 9 - October 14, 2023: Chatsworth, Illinois

The Community Connection of Central Illinois will host Spark! in Chatsworth and present free events and a companion exhibit detailing the terrible train accident that occurred near Chatsworth in 1887, its aftermath, and the community's response. The companion exhibit will feature other aspects of rural life in central Illinois as well.

Opening Hours: 

Tuesday – Friday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. CST
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CST

Location: Central Illinois Connection Center | 404-408 East Locust Street | Chatsworth, IL

October 21 - November 25, 2023: Rushville, Illinois

The HUB Arts and Cultural Center will host Spark! in Rushville and present free events and a companion exhibit about the artistic organizations in Schuyler County, both past and present.

Opening Hours: 

  • Tuesday: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. CST
  • Wednesday: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. CST
  • Thursday: 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. CST
  • Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CST
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. CST

Location: The HUB Arts and Cultural Center | 210 North Congress Street | Rushville, IL

December 2, 2023 - January 6, 2024: Durand, Illinois

Durand Charm will host Spark! in Durand and present free events and a companion exhibit highlighting the Durand Fire Department, the first municipal volunteer fire department in Illinois, and regional agricultural innovation.

Opening Hours: TBD

Location: Durand Masonic Lodge #302 | 420 North Center Street | Durand, IL

January 13 - February 17, 2024: Havana, Illinois

Havana Area Chamber of Commerce will host Spark! in Havana and present free events and a companion exhibit displaying historic Havana memorabilia related to their historic downtown and the Illinois River.

Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: Havana City Center | 326 West Market Street | Havana, IL

February 24 - March 30, 2024: Marshall, Illinois

The Marshall Public Library will host Spark! in Marshall and present free events and a companion exhibit remembering the Handy Writers’ Colony, a training program for authors (1950-64) associated with James Jones.​

Opening Hours: 

  • Monday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CST
  • Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CST
  • Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. CST
  • Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. CST
  • Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST

Location: Marshall Public Library | 612 Archer Avenue | Marshall, IL


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Museum on Main Street?

Museum on Main Street is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils, including Illinois Humanities. It not only enables Illinoisans to experience Smithsonian-produced exhibitions in their own communities but also gives the local cultural organizations that host these exhibitions opportunities to enhance their roles within their communities and regions, attract new audiences and volunteers, expand their knowledge and resource bases, and develop skills that can be applied toward future exhibitions and programs.

Periodically, Illinois Humanities facilitates a statewide tour of a traveling exhibition on a significant theme in American culture produced by the Smithsonian Institution. Illinois Humanities invites cultural organizations in small communities and rural counties with populations fewer than 25,000 (with priority given to communities with populations fewer than 10,000) throughout the state to apply to host the exhibition.

Each host organization displays the Smithsonian-produced exhibition for six weeks. It also produces a locally focused companion exhibition linking the subject matter of the Smithsonian-produced exhibition to the history and culture of its own community or region. Additionally, it presents public programs that engage audiences and participants with the topics and themes of the exhibitions. Through individual consultation and group workshops, Illinois Humanities staff members and consultants work closely with each host organization for a year prior to opening as they plan and prepare.

A Museum on Main Street exhibition requires significant investments of time, energy, and creativity from the host organizations and their community partners. Host organizations and communities reap significant benefits from their efforts, however, and often continue to do so long after the exhibition has concluded.

For more information about the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program, visit For more about the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, visit

How do I apply to host an exhibition in my town?

Complete the application that will be available in the spring of 2024. If you would like to discuss your application, please contact Matt Meacham at

Who is selected to participate?

Organizations that are selected to host an exhibition include museums, libraries, arts councils, historical societies, and other community groups and institutions. They are ambitious, creative, and committed to advancing their work through outstanding programming and exhibitions.

Illinois Humanities strives to reach every part of the state, including rural communities and towns with populations of less than 25,000. In our selection process, however, an applicant organization’s creativity, dedication to excellence, desire to grow, and willingness to seek out community partners are considered at least as important as its size, its budget, or the population of the community in which it is located.

How do hosts prepare for an exhibition?

In the year leading up to an exhibition opening, the host organizations work closely with Illinois Humanities staff and consultants to develop a locally focused companion exhibition and organize related programming. Representatives of the host organizations must attend four workshops: orientation, exhibition and program planning, installation, and docent training. In addition, Illinois Humanities staff will conduct a site visit with each organization several months prior to opening.

How much does it cost to host an exhibition?

Illinois Humanities covers the rental fee of the Smithsonian exhibition. In addition, we offer travel and lodging reimbursement (up to two rooms per organization) for the orientation workshop. Limited lodging reimbursement may be available for subsequent workshops.

Host organizations are financially responsible for the shipment of the exhibition crates from the previous site to their own, as well as for the production of their locally focused companion exhibition, honoraria for people involved in their public programming, and any other exhibition or program-related fees. The total expense varies from one organization to another. Many resourceful organizations rely on community donations and volunteer hours to make their exhibition possible. On average, organizations can expect to spend between $5,000 and $7,000 on the entire project. The orientation workshop typically includes advice about ways to reduce expenses.

Illinois Humanities makes up to $2,000 available to each host site through a grant resembling one of our technical assistance grants. Illinois Humanities staff works closely with host organizations during the grant application process, which is intended to serve as a learning opportunity. Together, we revise drafts of the application until we believe that it would be competitive in a regular grant cycle. We hope that this experience will continue to benefit organizations beyond the completion of the Museum on Main Street project.

What are the space requirements to host an exhibition?

The Smithsonian-produced exhibitions vary in size, but each exhibition venue usually requires approximately 800 square feet of display space and at least 8.5-foot ceilings.

Many organizations do not have sufficient space to house both the Smithsonian-produced exhibition and a locally-focused companion exhibition. In such cases, it is entirely acceptable to display the Smithsonian-produced exhibition in one location and the local companion exhibition in one or more other locations. In fact, some host organizations have found that distributing the exhibitions between two or more locations can create good opportunities for partnership with other community organizations. If your organization is interested in applying to host a Museum on Main Street exhibition but has concerns involving space, please contact our program coordinator. We will be happy to work with you to find a suitable arrangement.

Contact Us

Matt Meacham
Manager of Statewide Engagement