Everyone has a story to tell—who they are, where they came from, and what they’ve experienced. This living history is what The Putnam Museum & Science Center of Davenport, Iowa, captures in its newest exhibition, “Common Ground: Our Voice, Our Stories.”
The exhibit tells the unique stories of the Quad Cities, which is made up of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois. It tells these stories through a compilation of artifacts as well as oral history given through video segments, historic content, and archival footage.
“This exhibit is a culmination of many partnerships throughout the community as well as years of planning,” says Kelly Lao, vice president of museum experiences of the Putnam Museum. “The basic premise of this exhibition is to talk about our common history, our shared history as people of this region of the Quad Cities and make sure that we are inclusive of all the different storytellers that we can engage.”
“Common Ground” includes a wide range of time periods, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights era up through present day. The Putnam Museum worked closely with community partners and organizations such as the Friends of Martin Luther King Interpretive Center, Azubuike African American Council for the Arts, and more to make sure they were not only telling the stories of different groups, but also that they were telling those stories in the most representative way possible.
Visitors to the exhibit are meant to contribute their stories as well. Throughout the exhibit are thought-provoking questions meant to spark discussions and dialogue as visitors respond to what they are seeing and experiencing. There is also a storytelling booth where visitors can respond to the exhibit, as well as share their own stories, which will in turn be considered for inclusion in the exhibit.
“[The exhibit] is designed to continue the engagement of storytelling,” says Rachael Mullins, president and CEO of the Putnam Museum. “This is really meant to be a framework at how we look at our history, but also our contemporary issues in the community, so we can continue to grow, and stories can be added. And we can continue to increase relevancy of the content in the modern era.”
Group travelers can deepen the “Common Ground”experience in a number of ways. The museum offers presentations and educational opportunities groups can take advantage of, through existing programs or a special-tailored experiences. Some of the existing programming includes Women’s Roles in Society: Fashion & History, Prehistory of the Quad Cities, Caring for Your Treasures, and more. Groups can also book a number of spaces for longer daytrips, conferences, or merely a space for deeper connection to the exhibit.
After a trip to the new exhibit, visitors can experience the Quad Cities communities for themselves. There are an array of unique destinations, all of which are within easy reach of the Putnam Museum. Visitors have the opportunity to start adding their own living history into the Quad Cities story.
Written by Danielle Devota
Featured Image Credit: The Putnam Museum & Science Center