Obama Taps National African American Museum Designer For Library Exhibits

The New York firm that helped shape the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture will lead the exhibition design for the Obama Presidential Center’s museum on Chicago’s South Side, the Obama Foundation announced Tuesday.

Ralph Appelbaum Associates will head a team of several firms and individuals with expertise in media, lighting and acoustics, including several Chicago-based collaborators, according to the nonprofit that is developing the library and museum in historic Jackson Park.

The local team members will include the firms Civic Projects and Normal, and the artists and educators Amanda Williams, Andres Hernandez and Norman Teague.

Almost half of the exhibition design work for the OPC will be performed by minority- and women-owned businesses, the foundation said.

RAA, which was not made available to comment, also worked on the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

RAA’s exhibit design for the national African-American museum, which opened in September, blends monumentality and minutiae. Dramatic subterranean galleries showcase massive artifacts — a prison watch tower, a slave cabin, a train car — in an almost cathedral like setting.

Leading into and out of these open spaces, the galleries are stuffed with the narrative, in word and object, of a people’s history.

Overall, the design aims to be a metaphor: The history traces a path from the bottom of the structure upward, with the top floors becoming more celebratory, showcasing vibrant looks at the arts, sport and other culture.


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Source: Chicago Tribune | Kathy Bergen and Steve Johnson