Obama Foundation Names Director for Museum of Presidential Center | NBC Chicago
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Obama Foundation Names Director for Museum of Presidential Center

“One of the key aspects of the Obama Presidential Center is a museum that does not just tell the story of the Obama Administration, but inspires individuals and communities to take on our biggest challenges"

Former President Barack Obama unveiled plans for his future presidential center Wednesday, painting a picture of a buzzing hub for youth and community programs on the South Side of Chicago where he raised his family and launched his political career. Mary Ann Ahern reports.

(Published Wednesday, May 3, 2017)

The Obama Foundation announced Wednesday that has chosen a director for the Museum of the Obama Presidential Center. 

Dr. Louise Bernard will serve in the new role, officials announced, leading the design, development and operation of the museum.

“One of the key aspects of the Obama Presidential Center is a museum that does not just tell the story of the Obama Administration, but inspires individuals and communities to take on our biggest challenges. We are excited for Louise to join our team and help us develop a museum that is active and engaging,” David Simas, chief executive officer of the Obama Foundation, said in a statement. “Louise’s impeccable credentials and passion for her work will make her a valuable member of the Obama Foundation team.”

Former President Barack Obama unveiled plans for his future presidential center earlier this month, painting a picture of a buzzing hub for youth and community programs on the South Side of Chicago where he raised his family and launched his political career.

“The thing that is most exciting to us is to create an institution that will train the next generation of leadership…so that they can take up the torch and lead the process of change in the future,” Obama said at a forum near the site. “It’s why we are calling it a presidential center and not just a library.”

Renderings of the center show three buildings, including a tower-like museum and tree-lined walkways. The center, along Lake Michigan on Chicago's South Side, could span up to 225,000 square feet and will include a public plaza, ample green space and classrooms, foundation officials said.

Obama said he envisioned recording studios where musicians could help young people work on music and space for movie directors could take on community storytelling. The center will also have exhibits with campaign memorabilia and personal artifacts.

"Let's face it, we want to see Michelle's dresses," he joked.

Though the buildings themselves will not be constructed for approximately four years, the former president said, the Obamas planned to launch initiatives this year in conjunction with the library.

"This isn't just about a building, this is about reaching out right now," Obama said. 

However, the design doesn't come without controversy. Obama noted that in order to create the campus-like setting they envision for the center, they would need to close Cornell Drive, a major thoroughfare that runs through Jackson Park. It is likely to draw backlash from drivers who use the roadway. 

The Obama Foundation has said almost half of the exhibition design work for the museum will be performed by minority- and women-owned businesses. New York-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates will head a team of several firms and individuals with expertise in media, lighting and acoustics in designing exhibits. 

The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but officials have not publicly discussed cost.

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