The name Smithsonian oozes history, education, class and the essence of America, our national collective memory.
Soon, a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit called Hometown Teams will be in Fort Myers. That means a sliver, little more than the slimmest slice of our national collective memory will be on display.
But anything from the Smithsonian is a big deal, no matter how small.
And I’ve had a very small part in bringing the Hometown Teams exhibit here and planning how it will be presented and publicized at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts.
It will be in an Alliance gallery on McGregor Boulevard from June 30 to Aug. 11.
As a history buff and former sportswriter this is an astounding opportunity, one that is both magical and humbling. The Smithsonian name carries a cachet and gravitas that touches history buffs like me to our core.
Now, I’m helping with a Smithsonian exhibit, one that is right in my wheelhouse, combining my loves of history and sports.
How, you may wonder, did I get involved?
I’m president of the Southwest Florida Historical Society. Society vice president Yvonne Hill wrote a grant requesting that Hometown Teams, part of the Smithsonian’s traveling Museums on Main Street program, come here.
I know nothing about grant writing. But Yvonne does. She reached out to the Florida Humanities Council and the Lee County Black History Society and the Alliance.
It all came together. Yvonne deserves roughly 99.9999 percent of the historical society credit for snagging the exhibit. That leaves roughly .0001 percent of the credit for me. And I may be giving myself too much credit.
Anyhow, Yvonne and I attended a meeting last September at the Florida Humanities Council in St. Petersburg where we learned more. After the meeting I carried a heavy box of Forum magazines, a Florida Humanities Council publication, to Yvonne’s car.
So there is that. …
Now we’re only 20 days away from a truck hauling the exhibit pulling into the Alliance parking lot.
I will be there helping unload the exhibit, which is currently at the Dunedin Historical Museum. I should note that Fort Myers is the only place in Florida south of the Tampa Bay area to get this touring exhibit.
I checked out the exhibit last week on a trip to Dunedin. The pieces are all there – photos and videos and artifacts and a small set of bleachers and more.
The subtitle of the exhibit is How Sports Shape America. The elements of the exhibit illuminate that theme
All of it will soon be at the Alliance, a walk of only a few hundred feet across a parking lot and under some trees from the Southwest Florida Historical Society.
The Smithsonian notes on its website that it is “the world’s largest museum, education, and research center. We are a community of learning and the opener of doors.”
Alliance executive director Lydia Black and folks on her staff such as Krista Johnson and others have planned the exhibit with a cool, assured professionalism and poise.
A grand opening ceremony is planned for the evening of Friday, July 6. The evening will include a stilt walker named Too Tall Tony. She’s not to be confused, I assume, with former Dallas Cowboys great Too Tall Jones.
Panel discussions and movie nights are also part of the six-week stay of Hometown Teams in Fort Myers.
I’ve supplemented the touring exhibit with local historical flavor. Lee County Parks and Recreation has loaned us old Terry Park spring training photos dating back to the 1920s.
Fort Myers Country Club golf pro Rich Lamb has lent us two photos from the 1920s. Fort Myers Country Club has been part of this town since 1916.
We will reach into the Southwest Florida Historical Society archives for more photos and other artifacts.
It’s taking shape thanks to the work of many. Yvonne and Lydia and Krista and Betty Adams at the Lee County Black History Society have been fine-tuning the elements for months.
The event wouldn’t be possible, of course, without the Florida Humanities Council.
The focus of Hometown Teams, though, is the treasures the Smithsonian is sending and that will be rolled out of a truck on June 26.
The Smithsonian is shipping slices and slivers of Americana, right to our town, right into a gallery of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts, only a few hundred feet from the Southwest Florida Historical Society.
I hope to see you at there sometime during the Hometown Teams’ six-week stay.
I’ll be there often. ….