President Barack Obama put a new spin on the presidential library tradition by announcing plans for the Obama Presidential Center – a place that incentivizes change by not just talking about history, but making it.
Due to open in Chicago’s South Side in 2021, the Center will offer a world-class museum and public gathering spaces that celebrate the nation’s first African American President and First Lady. A presidential center for the future, its goal is to unite people from all walks of life in their capacity to create change and empowerment.
Community: Community input has been integral to the planning process. The opportunity to ensure the public voice is heard in the activation of the community is central to the building’s mission. Hundreds of focus groups have been held with the local community to discover how they wish to shape the Center’s story into South Side’s cultural context.
Content:The Museum of the Obama Presidential Center will focus on Obama’s personal and professional biography interwoven with wider histories in context. These involve moments of great weight, ranging from the positive to the difficult (Obama was a wartime president after all), and these issues should be accessible and digestible to diverse audiences.
The Museum will be a collecting institution, a place to reflect on the how objects gain value through the stories they tell.
Connection:The Center will no doubt be a place of pilgrimage for many. The focus on inclusive history and new narratives for civic engagement must connect with people across ideological differences, encouraging a “from me to we” spirit and thinking about how knowledge is produced and shared.
There are plans to host performances, artists, summits and more to create a holistic experience of dynamic activity across the Center.
A robust digital ecosystem is essential to provide a well-rounded engagement before, during and after the visit.
- Human connections – storytelling brings us together from all walks of life – from presidents to residents.
- Place holds power – Chicago’s South Side home is central to the institution’s community, identity and mission.
- Mission should begin from the ground up – understanding a local community means hearing their voices and involving them in the processes.
- Impact measurement – does it deliver on the promise of transformation?