UIC, community offer ideas for Obama Library

Obama Presidential Library logo (F)



Nearly 150 UIC students and employees and North Lawndale community members put their heads together Friday to brainstorm ideas for UIC’s bid to become home of the future Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

Participants gathered in Student Center East for a town hall meeting to discuss ways to make the library and museum meaningful to the campus, community and city. Recommendations will be forwarded to the UIC Obama Presidential Library and Museum Steering Committee and Proposal Committee.

“The recommendations were thoughtful,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science and a member of the steering committee.

“It showed that the participants were deeply invested in the ideas of the Obama Presidential Library coming to UIC-North Lawndale and that they were anxious to make it different from previous presidential libraries — more open, accessible and utilized as a center of civic engagement.”

Some suggestions included hosting a speaker series with global leaders, opening a community room where elementary and high school students could go for tutoring and creating internship opportunities for UIC students with nonprofit organizations connected to the library.


“It’s an opportunity for us to reimagine what a presidential library can be.”


It’s important to consider how to engage the community with the library and museum — and keep it engaged, said Lisa Lee, director of the School of Art and Art History and a member of the steering committee. “It’s an opportunity for us to reimagine what a presidential library can be,” she said.

The Obama Presidential Library will be part of the presidential library system, which includes 13 libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. It will preserve and make available to the public the papers, records and other historical materials that document the lives of the president, his family, associates and administration.

“If you wrote a letter to President Obama, 20 years from now you could go to the library and museum and see that letter,” Lee said.

Exhibits, which could include a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and Air Force One, would also focus on Obama and his family, Lee said.

“It really gives you a sense of the president as a human being,” she said.

The libraries are connected with ongoing presidential initiatives and institutes, Lee said. President Clinton’s foundation runs the Clinton Global Initiative, which convenes global leaders to develop solutions to worldwide challenges. The George W. Bush Foundation established the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where his presidential library and museum is located.

Having a partnership with the Barack Obama Foundation could lead to new schools, institutes or initiatives at UIC, Lee said.

“President Obama is a really young guy — he’s going to have lots of work to still do,” she said.

UIC and the other three finalists — University of Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii — must submit detailed proposals by Dec. 11.

UIC has proposed three sites: Harrison Field at Harrison and Halsted streets; a location in the Illinois Medical District at Taylor Street and Ashland Avenue; and a North Lawndale site in partnership with the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee.

The library could create a pathway between campus and North Lawndale, Lee said.

“We are thinking about what the ripple effect of a building could look like — thinking about a site that included multiple buildings leading from here to North Lawndale.”

Two additional town hall meetings are expected next month — one in North Lawndale and the other at the Harold Washington Library, Simpson said.

For more information, visit presidential-library.uic.edu

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