Debates, Decisions, Demands: Objects of Campaigns and Activism overview photo

Debates, Decisions, Demands: Objects of Campaigns and Activism

  • Duration:Temporary
  • Location:Campbell GalleryHundley Central Core

(date) 10/16/2020–7/25/2021

Presidential campaigns produce all manner of memorabilia. In our time, we have President Trumpʼs white on red MAGA hats and Joe Bidenʼs aviator sunglasses. Campaigns throughout history, too, have been accompanied by material objects that reflect cultural interests and stereotypes of their times. And yet, outside of mainstream politics, there are voices that have been silenced. Historical photographs and objects from voter rights movements like abolition and suffrage are also included in this exhibit; as are photographs from contemporary protest movements.

The People's Collection

This exhibit draws heavily on our Peopleʼs Collection, which comprises an eccentric mix of everyday objects related to presidential political campaigns, social causes and reform, and community promotion. Some of the objects include pin-on badges and buttons, figurines, paperweights, and cups. As objects of consumption and promotion, what can they tell us about early advertising efforts and the culture and concerns of their time? What canʼt they tell us?

"Politics are a part of our everyday lives, especially right now with an election looming,” says Curator Nathan Tye. “And these objects are what are left behind when weʼve moved past the campaign or social moment—they are literally the stuff of politics. They can help us understand what changes and what endures. The objects convey a devotion to ideals, positions, possibilities, and candidates."

“These objects are what are left behind when weʼve moved past the campaign or social moment—they are literally the stuff of politics. Nathan Tye, curator
Photo of an old mechanical voting machine with a University of Illinois plaque and visible referenda and candidates
Automatic voting machine model. United States, ca. 1936. 1992.10.0001
vintage figure of a police officer pushing a woman who has a flag that says Votes For Women in her hand
Suffragette and police bobby figurines. United Kingdom, ca. 1910. The People’s Collection, US History and Culture.2017.06.0257
red cloth square with colorful stylized embroidery of three men seated at a table signing a document
Mola depicting the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty. Kuna Culture, Panama, ca. 1970. Kieffer-Lopez Collection. 2008.22.0107
license place attachment with Uncle Sam with his hand on Franklin D. Roosevelt's shoulder and the words Drive Ahead With Roosevelt
FDR license plate attachment. 1936, United States. The People’s Collection, US History and Culture. 2017.06.0210

Poster Exhibits

Counter-balancing and complementing these objects from campaigns and social movements, we will host 3 poster exhibits:

  • Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, from the New-York Historical Society
  • Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, from the National Archives
  • Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

In combination, these exhibits tell a story about who has been—and is still often—left out of American democracy, and how voting rights have been demanded and sometimes partially won.

Photographs from Protests

Bringing the conversation into our own time, we include photographs from contemporary social justice movements, including Black Lives Matter, the Womenʼs March, and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Curator

U of I alumnus Nathan Tye is professor of history at the University of Nebraska Kearney. He specializes in the history of the American West and Midwest, labor history, gender and sexuality history, and digital and public history. He is working on his first book, Hobo Life: Illicit Mobilities, Masculinities, and Placemaking on the Road, 1870s–1930s.

Additional Resources

Exhibit Opening video stream (external link)

Exhibit Text

We are making the full text of the exhibit available here, in large print PDF (23.1 MB).

Download Large-Print Exhibit Text (PDF)

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow Virtual Tour

Originally a traveling exhibit in 2018 from the New-York Historical Society, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow (external link) can now be accessed as a virtual tour. This exhibit "recounts the dramatic, national story of the struggle for Black equality after the end of slavery."

This exhibit includes a 360° walkthrough of the exhibit as it was first installed at NYHS, as well as an object view that presents the exhibit as text accompanied by high resolution images of artifacts, documents, and art. For those ages 8 and up, there is an accompanying Family Discussion Guide (external link). For educators, there are accompanying Classroom Materials (external link).

Audio Playlists

Listen to exhibit-inspired playlists:

Credits

Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow was organized by the New-York Historical Society. Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote is presented in part by the Womenʼs Suffrage Centennial Commission and the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Unilever, Pivotal Ventures, Carl M. Freeman Foundation in honor of Virginia Allen Freeman, AARP, and Denise Gwyn Ferguson. Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery.

Debates Decisions, Demands logo image with purple and white stripes