American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith
June 17, 2023–October 8, 2023
Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
520 Royal Street, Tricentennial Wing, 1st and 3rd Floors
Free ticketed admission

About the Exhibition

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, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, examines the continuing evolution of America’s experiment in a government “of, by, and for the people.” The exhibition will be on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection from June 17, 2023, to October 8, 2023. Admission is free.

Drawn from the permanent exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, American Democracy 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.

Featuring engaging multimedia experiences, immersive design, and artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution, state historical organizations, and The Historic New Orleans Collection, American Democracy demonstrates that self-government relies on every citizen’s active participation in the quest to form a “more perfect union.” Exhibition sections explore 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.

American Democracy is sponsored locally by the 2023 Bienville Circle, J.P.Morgan Private Bank, and WDSU-TV. 

A companion exhibition, “Yet She Is Advancing”: New Orleans Women and the Right to Vote, 1878–1970, is on view through November 5, 2023. Expanding on a 2020 virtual exhibition on THNOC’s website, the exhibition tells a decades-long story through objects, images, documents, and interactive displays—and through the words of the New Orleans women who for nearly 100 years persisted in their struggle to obtain the vote.

Hail to the Chief: New Orleans and the American Presidency

Thursday, September 14, 5 – 7:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street
$10 Admission with RSVP required

Join esteemed guest scholars Ted Widmer (moderator), Richard Campanella, and C.W. Goodyear as they discuss the historic and geographic connections of New Orleans to the American presidency. The program explores how New Orleans has influenced the presidential trajectories of many of the country’s commanders in chief, from America's beginnings to the present day.



A Century of Women in Congress: The Transformative Role of Women in American Politics

Monday, September 25, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street
Free admission with RSVP required

Join presenters Matthew Wasniewski, historian of the US House of Representatives, and Kathleen Johnson, oral history manager of the US House of Representatives, for a special discussion about an ongoing oral history project that includes interviews with more than 40 women US representatives who served from the late 1960s to the present.



Shortcut Tours for American Democracy

Don’t have a lot of time but want to experience the exhibition? Take a Shortcut! Join us for a series of brief talks that explore our nation’s bold experiment to create a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” American Democracy Shortcut topics include:

  • Print Media and American Identity in the Revolutionary Era: See how cartoons and pamphlets helped unite the 13 colonies into a nation.
  • Citizenship: Who Belongs?  Explore changing ideas about citizenship and American identity from the 18th century to today.
  • Button Up! Delve into the history of political campaign flair—from buttons to bumper stickers—and what it tells us about Americans’ participation in democracy.  

Shortcuts are offered on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. Want to join? Meet a THNOC staff member by the desk in Helis Hall at 520 Royal Street. The tours are free, and registration is not required.