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Smithsonian Exploration of “American Democracy” Comes to New Orleans

Free exhibition on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection June 17 – Oct. 8, 2023 

NEW ORLEANS — Drawn from the permanent exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the traveling exhibition “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith,” on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) through Oct. 8, explores the challenges and triumphs that generations of Americans encountered as they sought to create a government based on the sovereignty of the people. It explores the history of citizen participation, debate and compromise from the nation’s formation to today.

In 1776, many colonists made a great leap to a new idea: maybe they could do without monarchy and aristocracy. If they could unite with one another, “the common people” of the colonies might form a more equal society and government. “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” examines the continuing evolution of America’s experiment in a government “of, by and for the people.”

The exhibition, featuring images and objects from the Smithsonian and THNOC’s holdings, will be supported by an array of public programs. THNOC’s Yet She Is AdvancingNew Orleans Women and the Right to Vote, 1878-1970,” on view through Nov. 5., will serve as a companion exhibition to “American Democracy.”

Featuring engaging multimedia experiences and immersive design, “American Democracy,” a product of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, examines the origins of American democracy, the changing identity of eligible voters, the machinery of democracy, the right to petition and protest beyond the ballot and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.  

 It’s called ‘The American Experiment’ for a reason,” said Daniel Hammer, THNOC president and CEO. “From the travails of its founders to the experiences of today’s citizens, America has been a laboratory in which the elements of self-government are debated, tested, refined and achieved. For visitors of all ages, backgrounds and political persuasions, ‘American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith’ travels through the history that has delivered us to the present. It’s an honor for The Historic New Orleans Collection to welcome the Smithsonian’s stirring and thought-provoking lesson in liberty.”  

Major support for “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” in New Orleans is provided by THNOC’s 2023 Bienville Circle membership group. Additional support is provided byJ.P. Morgan Private Bank New Orleans and WDSU-TV. 

 American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith will be on view on the first and third levels of THNOC’s Tricentennial Wing at 520 Royal StAdmission is free. Advance reservations are recommended. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit

About The Historic New Orleans Collection 

Founded in 1966, The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the stewardship of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. For more information, visit, call (504) 523-4662 or follow THNOC on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  

About the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) 

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, DC, for more than 70 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For an exhibition description and tour schedules, visit


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