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Completed exhibit now awaits to be filled with stories


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    TULSA, Oklahoma (Tulsa World) — The Greenwood Rising History Center building is complete. Now comes the hard part — filling it with stories.

Workers from 1220 and Local Projects will spend the next month doing just that in the leadup to the centennial commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

1220 produces and installs museum exhibits. Local Projects designs them. Or, as the company’s website puts it, “We help visitors have a social experience with art.”

“For the most part, we see ourselves as not designers of case work or graphics, but ultimately as designers of behavior,” said Jake Barton, principal and founder of Local Projects. ”We really try and architect the visitor experiences to make a larger, oftentimes argument, if not participatory experience.”

In practice, this has meant different things at different museums. And Local Projects has no lack of examples to reference. It is perhaps best known for its experience design work at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

But the company’s reach is far and wide, from its reimagining of Gallery One at Cleveland Museum of Art to the world’s first voice-activated museum of language, Planet Word, in Washington, D.C., to its immersive telling of the environmental history of Australia at the National Museum of Australia.

The common theme running through each design is visitor engagement. Don’t step into Greenwood Rising — or any Local Projects exhibit around the world — and expect to passively pass the time.

“At the 9/11 Museum, for example, we really focused on the ways in which everybody had a 9/11 story and how they would share that story at the museum and also listen to other people tell their story.” Barton said. “So we saw the museum as a real platform to gather people from around the world, which ultimately made the whole experience far more authentic and raw.

“At the Planet Word Museum, which is a totally different topic, it’s a museum of words and language, we used voice recognition so that visitors can speak and be listened to by the museum itself. The entire museum is like a giant dialogue.”

In telling the story of Greenwood, past, present and future, Local Projects relied heavily on local experts and historians. Ultimately, though, it’s community members themselves who tell the story.

“That happens on a lot of different levels, whether it is through projecting the history onto the façade of a recreation Greenwood store from 1921, or making an introductory experience which is filled with contemporary Greenwood natives, or entering into a lovingly recreated 1921 barbershop to hear three barbers from a century ago debate the politics and economics of Black and white relations as well as on Greenwood as a successful, thriving African American community,” Barton said.

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