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Museum on Main Street : Stories of voting in America exhibit opens Saturday at Laurens County Museum

Laurens County, S.C.  – Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, an interactive exhibit created by The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street, will open at 1 p.m. on June 4 at the Laurens County Museum and residents will be welcome during regular hours to experience the free exhibit.

The Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit will remain on display for six weeks at the Witherspoon Building, 116 South Public Square, Laurens.

It recounts the often dramatic stories of voting and the path toward voting rights in the United States, going as far back as the Revolutionary War period and throughout more recent struggles, such as voting rights for minorities and the women’s suffrage movement. During each of these periods there were key players and events were sometimes deadly.

The Laurens County Museum is free to tour, and that is also the case for this Smithsonian exhibit, which will be located in a separate room at the back of the main floor.

“We are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday,” said Laurens County Museum Director Laura Clifford. “Starting the afternoon of Saturday, June 4, the museum and the Smithsonian exhibit will be open during those time slots for anyone who wants to drop by.”

Laurens is one of only six cities to have earned the oppor- tunity to host Voices and Votes: Democracy in America. It is one of several exhibits sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibit, which brings a sampling of the Smithsonian’s vast work on many subjects to smaller communities far from its Washington, D.C., base.

While the interactive exhibit tells many of the stories of how nationwide, minorities and women finally earned the right to vote, Laurens County has its own stories, and Clifford hopes this six-week program will bring people who are willing to tell and record for the museum their own stories about what voting was like here in years past.

“When the Smithsonian comes to a city, it can increase our foot traffic and more people will see our other exhibits,” Clifford said. “We will have one area giving the Laurens County aspect of voting and we hope to gather more stores from visitors, either while they are here, or that they’ll come back and record their stories for us.”

The only frustration for Clifford is that the exhibit is opening right as schools are closing for the summer, so Clifford is planning to network with as many summer programs and camps as possible to bring children.

“We need children and young people in this museum,” Clifford said. “It’s history that is important for all ages, and children need to see the history of Laurens County and our nation.”

Clifford said anyone willing to tell their own stories about life or voting in Laurens County can drop by the museum during regular hours or call and set up an appointment.

“We know there are people here with important stories to tell, not just about voting but many subjects,” Clifford said, “and we hope this brings in people who are willing to sit down with us and record their stories.”

For more information, call the Laurens County Museum at 864-681-3678.

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