This presentation shares conceptual thinking about the Museum of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) as a new model for an innovative social and cultural institution. As the first truly urban Presidential Museum, the work of the OPC is grounded in the power of place (the iconic presence of Chicago and the Black Metropolis), and in the national and global stories that have shaped and continue to influence the life and work of Barack and Michelle Obama. While the museum will privilege the telling of a nuanced history and will foreground the power of objects to illuminate key aspects of the human experience, the central mission of civic engagement--of the relationship between individual agency and collective action--opens up space for the visitor to investigate, curate, and forge their own connections between past and present. The Presidential Museum of the future, therefore, throws into sharp relief key questions about museum-making, and the forging of a nonpartisan “creative commons” that is at once flexible, participatory, inclusive, and inspirational.
Founding Director of the Museum of the Obama Presidential Center
Chicago has been the center of American architecture since the late 19th century. The city's most important early architects Louis Sullivan and his partner, Dankmar Adler, designed the Chicago Stock Exchange, built from 1893 to 1894. When the original Stock Exchange was demolished in 1972, sections of Sullivan's elaborate stenciled decorations, molded plaster capitals, and art glass were preserved from the Trading Room. Using these fragments, the Art Institute was able to reconstruct the Trading Room in its Rubloff Building between 1976 and 1977.