Smithsonian. Gulf County sports.
Sounds like a winning mix.
And it figures to be this fall when the Smithsonian Institute will bring its “Museum on Main Street” to the Port St. Joe Library, and as the local library seeks to add a dash of community flavor to the exhibit.
With photos of the many great athletes, and teams, that have called Gulf County home through the years.
The traveling exhibit, “Hometown Teams”, “examines the many roles that sports play in American society,” according to the Smithsonian website. “Hometown sports are more than just games – they shape our lives and unite us and celebrate who we are as Americans.”
The exhibit will arrive in November but preparations have been taking place for some time.
Funding for the exhibit was secured through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council, said Nancy Brockman, Coordinator of the Gulf County Libraries.
“They have been marvelous in their support,” Brockman said of the humanities council. “They are a wonderful way for us to expand our offerings for the community.”
With “Museums on Main Street” the Smithsonian extends its reach into smaller, rural areas, communities with an average population of 8,000; the range is 1,000 to 20,000.
“It’s really to get Smithsonian quality exhibits out in rural areas,” Brockman said, noting there are six different exhibits traveling the country as part of the “Museums on Main Street” program.
“Hometown Teams” is merely one of the exhibits which have visited more than 1,400 communities across the country since 1994.
The idea came out of a survey of 13 humanities councils and 300 small cultural institutions in the country which underscored that rural areas tend to be isolated from things such as the arts and museums and that libraries and small museums, while lacking in financial assets, were perfect platforms for programs as they serve as community centers.
The exhibit, which will fill the Florida History room in the library during its stay, brings Smithsonian quality and space for a local look at sports.
“It’s really, really neat,” Brockman said. “We can bring a local flavor to it.”
The connection between the community and its athletics seemed a perfect fit, Brockman added.
Brockman and staff are currently soliciting and combing through historic photos pertaining to sports donated to the library for use during the exhibit.
The plan is for at least one slideshow pertaining to local sports to be part of the exhibit and a high school yearbook will also be included.
Brockman and volunteer Mimi Minnick have also undergone training required to assemble, disassemble, understand and explain the exhibit.
The exhibit includes a series of panels pertaining to American hometown sports and there is a seat of bleachers from which folks can lift a seat cushion and learn about local or national sports.
“It all has to do with how sports are part of small towns,” Brockman said.
The library, as noted, is soliciting photos from the community and Brockman is placing a particular focus on expanding the images beyond the troika of football, basketball and baseball.
“Soccer is big around here and so is track and field and youth sports,” Brockman said. “I want to expand as much as we can.”