On March 13, 2021, the Heinz History Center opened the exhibit American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith. Developed in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), this timely exhibition explores the history of citizen participation, debate, and compromise from the nation’s formation to today, as our region and country attempt to make sense of a year that included heated election cycles, civil unrest, presidential impeachments, and unprecedented challenges to our democracy. It examines how Pittsburghers and events in Western Pennsylvania have significantly helped shape our democracy, including the Whiskey Rebellion, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, and more.
Among these topics, this exhibit shines a light on issues of access and the vote, including calling special attention to the work of disability rights activists Paul Dick, Rachel Freund, Paul O’Hanlon, and Eileen Shackleton, through objects and images, with the intention to help the public understand that access means more than just accessible voting machines – it means ensuring access to the entire democratic system.
The History Center would like to thank the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium for the multi-year partnership that has resulted in the inclusion of these important disability rights stories in this exhibit. Special thanks are also due to Paul Freund, Holly Dick, and Karen Hoesch of ACCESS Transportation Systems for donating the images and artifacts that appear in this exhibit.
The exhibition will remain open through Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021. You can learn more here.