Obama Foundation begins soliciting artifacts for Presidential Center museum

Art teacher Krystal Grover-Webb holds her 2012 painting “President Barack Obama Inspires Us to Learn,” which she wants to donate to the Obama Foundation for its Presidential Center Museum. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

Staff writer

With its mission to “preserve and activate a rich and multifaceted record of President and Mrs. Obama’s lives and legacy … to share the lessons of history and to help inspire, connect and empower people to change their world,” the Obama Foundation unveiled its collection development initiative and began soliciting artifact donations Saturday at a community gathering at the Stony Island Arts Bank.

“The museum will tell the story of the Obamas in the context of the African American story and the American story, the history of this country — as well as from the perspective of the people that they saw and served along the way,” said Chief Engagement Officer Michael Strautmanis. “We can’t tell that story without you.”

On a handout given to attendees, the Foundation noted that it is particularly looking for artifacts from the Obamas’ “formative years in Chicago,” especially ones related to the former President’s community and labor organizing, Michelle’s upbringing in South Shore, their early careers, including at the University of Chicago, and his time as an Illinois and U.S. Senator.

Any campaign, election and inauguration memorabilia from the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections is welcomed, as are personal mementos and “expressions of hometown/South Side pride” and anti-Obama materials “that speak to the complex narrative of our democratic process.”

From the presidency itself, museum organizers are seeking objects, documents or photos that “connect to the challenges, critiques, achievements and significant events” of those eight years as well as those “that show unique, unexpected or personally meaningful aspects” of his work “or its impact on individuals and/or communities.”

Krystal Grover-Webb, an art teacher at Wentworth Elementary School, 1340 W. 71st St., brought a framed portrait of President Obama to the event, which she had made for an Occupy movement-inspired 2012 exhibition “We Are the 99%” in Union Pier, Michigan.

In her painting, Obama looks out over the children as they hold books. “Learning is not only in the books, but learning from the experiences we have to help us develop our character, so we can create a better society and community,” Grover-Webb said.

“This will be here for years to come. What the event has done has changed the course of history, so I feel that I am making a very small contribution to a part of history that will make a difference in millions and millions of individuals’ lives.”

Those interested in donating can contact the Foundation at collections@obama.org..