Walking down the Trail of Tears water steps by the Aquarium or through one of the Civil War battlegrounds atop Lookout Mountain will tell you that Chattanooga is rich in history.
“Chattanooga is a great place to work because history is already there.” said Dr. Daryl Black, executive director of the Chattanooga History Center.
But Chattanooga’s history also includes stories that aren’t mentioned in classroom textbooks. These untold stories are memories of the people who made Chattanooga the city it is today.
Wanting to create an exhibit that focuses on history and community memories, the Chattanooga History Center created a campaign to build a 19,500 square-foot social history museum in the Aquarium Plaza.
Helping to complete this dream is a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities the center recently received. The funding will be used to finish the interactive exhibits, in which community memories start a conversation with visitors about where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we want to go. Visitors can listen to oral history soundscapes of Chattanoogans and see a 75-minute film narrated by Chattanooga native Samuel L. Jackson featuring interviews from Chattanoogans telling parts of the city’s history.
The exhibit also contains six galleries, starting with the Trail of Tears, the inception of railroads, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the start of industrial development, the creation of TVA, the World Wars, the urban experience, the Civil Rights Movement, and Vision 2000. At the end, the exhibit challenges visitors to become engaged with their community by asking themselves what they can do to improve it.
The Chattanooga History Center is scheduled to open at the beginning of 2015. — Madeline Chambliss