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Using History and Media to Build Community
When Levine Museum was founded almost 25 years ago, we set out to engage a broad audience in the exploration and appreciation of the diverse history of the American South since the Civil War. We believe in sharing the stories of those who have shaped our region, and who continue to reinvent the South today. We strive to connect the community to our past, present, and future, and to each other, through engaging and thought-provoking exhibits and programs. We believe passionately in using history to build community.
Much has changed since 1991, and not just demographics or the Charlotte skyline. How people connect and communicate with each other, how they learn and how they discover new experiences. With each exhibit, we consider how we can teach visitors something they never knew, how can we encourage them to become life-long learners and how can this inspire them to share their experience.
Our current exhibit ¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South, explores the surprising ways Latinos are shaping the South and the South is shaping Latinos. The result of over three years of research and collaborative work with the Atlanta History Center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and numerous museum professionals, ¡NUEVOlution! is our most ambitious and interactive exhibits to date. And the project as a whole expands on our vision of using history to build community. ¡NUEVOlution! uses history and media to build community.
How is this done? ¡NUEVOlution! shares the powerful, personal stories and experiences of Latinos in the New South, and encourages visitors to consider the changes occurring around their community. Just like the Nuevo South, ¡NUEVOlution! is a mashup of dynamic stories, hands-on interactives, art, media and even visitor generated content, that you experience from the start as a multi-touchscreen at the entrance asks: “how do you connect with your community?”
Throughout the exhibit, visitors encounter a wide range of personal stories and perspectives – professional videos filmed prior to the exhibit’s launch, informal videos collected onsite and out in the community through a story kiosk, and even visitor tweets on the touch screen.
One hands-on interactive asks visitors to consider their own identity with “do you consider yourself American? Southern? Something else?” So far, our citizenship test interactive has been taken by over 1,450 visitors.
Offering visitors a time to reflect on the power of words, our “Desencuentros” corridor confronts stereotypes using social media generated quotes and concludes with an opportunity to answer “how have you stereotyped others?” As visitors learn about food traditions, they are asked to create a plate of food from around the globe. Lastly, visitors can create video answering questions around issues of identity, hopes and fears, and thoughts of what the future holds.
Throughout the exhibit visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts on social media. This can include their answers to an online U.S. citizenship test, photos in artist Nico Amortegui’s chair or responses to questions posed in the story kiosk. Through the use of the hashtag #NUEVOlution, visitors share tweets, photos and posts, which are aggregated online for everyone to discover. We have used this as a tool to expand the reach of ¡NUEVOlution! by reposting and retweeting our visitors’ experiences. You can see some of our visitors’ feedback on Twitter and view exhibit and story kiosk videos on our “Video Viernes” playlist on YouTube.
It has been exciting to see visitors and our community participate, engage, and ultimately become a part of ¡NUEVOlution! We look forward to the remaining months of the project, and to what lies ahead as continue to experience the power of using history and media to build community.
¡NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South is on display now through October 30, 2016.