SPARK! Places of Innovation, Rural innovation- all it takes is a spark! Come visit the exhibition! January 20 to February 25, 2024. Loutit District Library. Smithsonian. Michigan Humanities.

Come explore a Smithsonian exhibition!

Travel to innovative rural communities across the nation. Spark! Places of Innovation explores stories of towns that tapped into existing strengths to confront challenges and create opportunities. See how their unique combination of place, people, and creativity ignited change — socially, artistically, technologically, or culturally. Be inspired to spark innovation in your own town today!

The story of human history is written in inventions and innovations. People are problem-solvers. Sometimes, we invent. More often, we innovate—we introduce a fresh idea or an invention into use in some way that creates a new way of doing or thinking.

Invention can happen anywhere, and it’s happening right now in small towns across America. Rural Americans are creating new products, taking risks, meeting challenges together, and seizing upon exciting opportunities that change local life and sometimes reach far beyond.


Photograph of SPARK! Smithsonian exhibit, which features pictures, unreadable text, and key words like INTERWOVEN and TRADITION
dated photograph of Miss U.S. Coast Guard standing at the edge of the waterfront in front of a Coast Guard vessel and smiling

Spark! Places of Innovation is a Museum on Main Street exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution. Inspired by Places of Invention, an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Want a little sneak peek of the exhibit? Click here to view a virtual, interactive version of our ABC’s of Library Innovation display!

We’re bringing a local perspective!

Here at Loutit, we’ve been hard at work researching and gathering local innovations. Visit the library exhibit to learn more about the innovative history of Grand Haven’s waterfront, Coast Guard Festival, library, industry, agriculture, and so much more!

Learn answers to questions like “How did the Coast Guard Festival get its start?” and “How did the Grand Haven’s industrial docks turn into the beautiful waterfront it is today?” Plus, we have many features of different community partners who innovate every day! All this and so much more in:


Spark! Places of Innovation

Black and White photograph of well-dressed children at a counter talking with a librarian at an old library

Spark! Programming

We have some amazing programs throughout January and February, while the exhibit is available! Learn about historical innovations made in the Tri-Cities, participate in innovative challenges that’ll make you think outside of the box, explore new innovations from out community, and more! Click any of the images below to learn more, or click here to view our entire Spark! program calendar.

Click here to view exhibit guided tour dates on our calendar. If you’d like to schedule tours for a group, please call (616)850-6917.

Exhibit Guided Tours
Rosie the Riveter Reenactment
Three ways innovation changed the tri-cities
Rails, canals, and the industrial revolution
DIY Screen printing for tweens and teens
How steam power changed the world
Railroads and Change in Grand Haven
Lego afternoon spark! edition
when money grew on trees: the history of lumbering in west michigan
Family spaghetti construction challenge
Keeping the lights on: the technology of lighthouses
Innovation of brewing at the unicorn tavern
DIY Screen printing for adults
Cardboard creations
Click here to view our full calendar

Thank you to all of our Community Partners and Sponsors!

This exhibit would not have been possible without your help and support.

Paul Trap Clair Dahl Kelly Beattie
Frank Kennedy Thomas Henthorn LDL Board of Trustees
Paula Meyer Ellen Paulin
Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival Logo
Tri Cities historical museum logo
the unicorn tavern logo
kenzie's be cafe logo
midwest miniatures museum logo
GHSP logo
friends of the loutit district library logo
momentum center logo
grand haven pride logo