Smithsonian's 'Journey Stories' in Dunedin explores America's travels

An exhibit looks at how we got to America, and the wanderlust that followed.
Published January 31 2013
Updated February 1 2013

"(On board) the people are packed densely, like herrings. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages so that everyone believes that the ship will go to the bottom."

Gottlieb Mittelberger, German emigrant, 1754


Gottlieb Mittelberger's account of a perilous ocean voyage to America is one of many depicted in the Smithsonian exhibit "Journey Stories."

The traveling exhibition, which features interactive stations and engaging stories, photos and images, is on display at the Dunedin Historical Museum through March 30.

"It's all about Americans on the move," said Vinnie Luisi, the museum's executive director. "These personal stories of travel and migration tell America's story."

The museum was the last stop of six in Florida for the traveling exhibit, but it's been so well received, other museums in the state are being offered the opportunity to host it as well, he said.

Museum visitor Doran Jason of Tampa said he found the information "quite interesting."

"There are a lot of details that I didn't really know about — a lot of specifics to get caught up on."

The stories range from those of courageous early explorers and settlers who navigated rivers, oceans and uncharted territories to modern-day travelers looking for fun and adventure. Quests for freedom, new opportunity or a fresh start were often driving factors during America's youth.

The exhibit also explores the journeys of American Indians who were pushed out of their ancestral lands and Africans who came here by force as part of the slave trade.

"Journey Stories" is a Museum on Main Street project organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; it's funded by a $10,000 grant from the Florida Humanities Council.

Deborah Kynes, a Humanities Council board member and former Dunedin city commissioner, said the grants are a means to help smaller hometown museums obtain esteemed Smithsonian exhibits.

"It's not every day Dunedin gets to have a Smithsonian exhibit," she said.

In fact, it's the museum's first.

Visitors can bring their own family's personal journey story and post it on a special board at the museum.

Smaller events and talks are taking place around the community to support the special event.

And the museum is offering a companion educational kit for classrooms. It consists of a traveling case with curriculum materials, books, period clothing and more.

"This is a high-quality exhibit that has been traveling for two or three years," said Luisi. "We are at the height of our tourist season and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to have it. So far, the crowds have been great."

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