Museum on wheels brings history outside

Design for History Moves mobile museum

A preliminary sketch of the History Moves mobile museum. The museum will be developed by UIC historians, architects, museum professionals and graphic designers working with community groups. (click image for larger file size)


A team of scholars and community groups will create a public history museum on wheels to reach Chicagoans who don’t frequent local cultural institutions.

A $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will be used to design and develop History Moves, a mobile gallery for history and art.

“History Moves is a space for enacting a project of collecting and displaying Chicago’s history,” says Jennifer Brier, associate professor of gender and women’s studies and the project’s lead investigator.

“It allows for a direct relationship between interdisciplinary scholars at UIC, community co-curators and the neighborhoods they inhabit.”

Community involvement will play a big role at every stage of the gallery’s development, Brier said.

“While there are numerous mobile museums in the United States, none of them make non-professionals central to the work of making public history,” she added.

Before the project’s public launch, historians, architects, graphic designers and museum professionals from UIC will develop a full-scale model display system and floor plan for testing by focus groups. The final product of this phase will be construction documents for the design of one prototype gallery.

The gallery, which aims to increase the visibility of community-based organizations, will have a flexible interior design. Early concepts of the layout allow for “changing spatial configurations that are vibrant and physically engaging,” said Julie Flohr, clinical assistant professor of architecture and lead architect.

“Artifacts, graphics and digital technologies are carefully woven together in order to best present each curatorial project,” Flohr said.

The developers plan to present exhibitions for seven months, going to accessible public spaces such as library, school or park district parking lots. Public programs with the exhibit will take place outside the mobile museum or in nearby publicly accessible spaces.

Sharon Haar, professor of architecture, who consulted on the initial design and urban strategy of the project, said the community co-curated exhibitions will travel throughout the city, drawing in new audiences and “crossing the social, cultural, racial and economic barriers that are reinforced by brick-and-mortar institutions.”

UIC was among 817 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive the 2013 NEA Art Works grant, awarded for projects in 13 artistic disciplines.

Community partners for History Moves include the Immigrant Youth Justice League, South Side Community Arts Center, Chicago Cultural Alliance, Chicago Freedom School and Read/Write Library.

UIC partners include Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, which also provided seed funds.


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