The Sensing Chicago Gallery Essay

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INTRODUCTION The Chicago Historical Society was founded in 1856 and has spent the majority of its 153 year history as an institution devoted to the diverse and evolving history of Chicago and Illinois. In 2006, the institution emerged from a remarkable 21 month physical and philosophical transformation. Not only did the museum undertake a wholesale renovation of its gallery spaces, but it also took steps to update its public persona to be more representative of the full spectrum of communities living in Chicago. The museum was rebranded the Chicago History Museum (CHM) as one way of making itself more accessible to new populations of visitors who may have previously felt excluded by the old aristocratic-sounding name of the…show more content…
DESCRIPTION OF THE GALLERY The first thing that a visitor notices upon visiting the Sensing Chicago gallery is the tactile experience. Everything begs to be touched. The exhibits are oriented low to the ground so as to be accessible to the eight- to nine-year-old target audience, and there are no guardrails of any kind to inhibit accessibility. The labels, the floor, and the exhibits themselves are painted in bold, exciting colors and the walls are covered with pictures of smiling children and iconic sights of Chicago. It is hard to imagine the space not appealing to the sensibilities of a young child. The layout of the 1500 square-foot space is physically divided into six areas corresponding with different colors on the floor. Five of the areas feature hands-on exhibits that use each of the senses as entry points for children’s personal exploration of Chicago history, and the sixth area is designed so that children can personalize their experience by leaving their own mark on the exhibition hall. This structure incorporates whole-body sensory experiences to communicate that every participant has the ability to explore and experience history all around them. The gallery presents sensory experiences that fall into two categories: past and present. By juxtaposing experiences that are familiar to children today as well as those which

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