After being without a building for the past three years, the Chattanooga History Center will have a place to house its new exhibits -- next to the Tennessee Aquarium.
"It's not often that a community has the opportunity to build a history center," said Dr. Daryl Black, the center's executive director. "This is an opportunity to build a history experience that sets the pace for the region."
The move won't come quickly. Plans are for the history center to take up residence in the Broad Street building now housing the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, but that isn't expected to happen until March 2012.
HISTORY CENTER GALLERIES
* The first gallery will introduce the guests to the themes of the museum and give them a sense of time.
* The second will tell stories and show displays on Chattanooga history.
* The third will focus on the Chattanooga region as a place of community and conflict, including exhibits about the Civil War and the Trail of Tears.
* The fourth deals with industry and innovation in Chattanooga.
Source: Dr. Daryl Black, history center executive director
While the visitors bureau must relocate, the move for the history center is "wonderful news" for the tourism industry, said Bob Doak, president of the visitors bureau.
"The dramatic presentation of Chattanooga's rich history will present our visitors with more reasons to come see us, extend their stays, and come back again," Mr. Doak said.
He wouldn't say where the bureau will be going.
After the history center -- formerly known as the Chattanooga Regional History Museum -- closed its doors in 2006, plans began to refinance a new history center in an area more accessible to the public, Dr. Black said.
Not alone in their planning, history center officials have worked with RiverCity Co. -- the nonprofit downtown development company -- on plans for the new building.
Moving the history center next to the Tennessee Aquarium will help bring the city together, said RiverCity President Kim White.
"It's a great fit," Ms. White said. "It does complete everything that's there in the waterfront district."
Although it hasn't had a building in years, the history center has remained a "museum without walls" by participating in community programs and working with schools, Dr. Black said.
While the center will continue its outreach programs after the new building is completed, everything in the museum will be new material, he said.
"(It's) not a traditional history museum," he said, as the theme will include the "different pasts of Chattanooga."
Plans include four major gallery spaces organized by themes but not chronologically, he said.
One of the gallery rooms will set the stage for the history, pointing out the high points and major milestones in Chattanooga's past. The rest of the museum will be filled with stories of important times in the city's history, including the Civil War and the Trail of Tears, he said.
"We're on the verge of doing exactly what we set out to do in 2006, which is to give Chattanooga the kind of history center it deserves," he said.