Chattanooga is known for its gigabit Internet and its environmental vibe, and it is now nationally recognized as a city that approaches history with innovation.
The Chattanooga History Center has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It's the largest of three NEH grants given in Tennessee and the fifth-largest awarded by NEH in the nation this year.
"In all of the public humanities projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities' division of public programs, we look for an effective balance between scholarly ideas and broad public appeal," said Karen Mittelman, director of the NEH's division of public programs.
Dr. Daryl Black, executive director of the center, said the grant is "the most competitive award in the country for institutions seeking funding for projects in the humanities. It communicates to the community that this is a serious project and national in its scope and quality."
The history center will use the grant money to help complete its capital campaign and build a 19,500-square-foot social history museum at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza in downtown Chattanooga.
"The Chattanooga History Center's proposal for a new permanent exhibit is an example of an innovative museum project that blends excellent scholarship on public memory and community history with visually engaging and dynamic interpretation," Mittelman said.
"We are now very, very close to having all the funding," Black said. "The grant is speeding up the last phase of the fabrication, which will allow us to finish the project without interruption."
The panelists who reviewed the museum's application were particularly excited to see how the museum plans to bring Chattanooga's rich and complex past to life, and how organizers plan to use installations to present conflicting views on key events in the city's history, Mittelman said.
The museum is expected to open officially in early 2015. It will have a central gallery with five signature pieces, two theaters, three sound installations and a dramatic gallery hall. Six attached galleries will tell specific stories about watershed moments in Chattanooga.
"The museum is not just about Chattanooga," Black said. "It is about Chattanoogans in American history and how communities make and remake themselves. It's about how people make decisions that impact the future."
NEH awarded a total $34 million in grants to support 177 humanities projects across the country.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at email@example.com or at 423-757-6592.