History Moves: A Participatory, Modular, and Mobile History Gallery

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:00 PM
Thurgood Marshall Ballroom West (Marriott Wardman Park)
Jennifer Brier, University of Illinois at Chicago
I will talk about the origins of History Moves, a history gallery “on wheels,” that is a participatory public history project I created in 2011. My work on History Moves began with a desire to imagine a meaningful process of co-curation between professional historians and community-based partners. My experience working at the Chicago History Museum as a co-curator of a temporary exhibition led me to figure out ways to take the curated products of the collaboration on the road. I wanted more than a two-dimensional traveling exhibition, and instead worked with architects and designers to imagine a three-dimensional modular gallery that would allow for changing spatial configurations and secure display of artifacts, graphic materials, and digital technologies within the confines of a mobile platform. While not yet built, my hope is that in its final form, History Moves’ design and content system will allow community partners to interpret and share their own version of Chicago history through oral histories and personal memorabilia.

The project acknowledges the need to involve more directly and permanently the creators of Chicago’s culture: not a museum within a community, but a museum co-created with the city’s communities. It serves as a forum for community-based organizations to use history as a tool to increase the visibility of their work, and expand their cultural and political authority. We insist that one of the best ways to get people engaged with cultural and historical institutions is to make them mobile and modular, not in a web-based application but in a physical form that enables community participation in institution building.

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