\
Sunday, August 1, 2004

More than a museum


The Freedom Center isn't just about exhibits, but about creating a safe place to extend and deepen the local and national dialogue on crucial issues

FREEDOM CENTER
Special section: Tour the Freedom Center
More than a museum
'Candle in the window' marks a safe house
A grand, bold vision for change
Challenging the barriers to freedom

Other dialogue centers
Editorial:
Freedom Center's bold challenge

Your voice:
'And we'll sing about freedom ...'

QUOTES
"I would be very pleased - and excited - if the Freedom Center chose to take on the role of a forum for national debate. There is a need and room in our country for such an institution to be a leader in the area of civic engagement on racial and diversity issues."
Gary Moore, Boone County judge-executive

"The key to our prosperity is to come together to discuss the issues at the core of society. Cincinnati is fortunate to have a center to help facilitate that dialogue so we can establish a commonality of interests and understanding to address those issues. "
Valerie Lemmie, Cincinnati city manager

"I have hoped from the first that the center would be a place that's available for serious discussion, for people to debate important issues. Geographically and historically, we're located at the perfect place for this center."
John Burlew, Hamilton County Municipal Court judge

"As a forum for national dialogue, the Freedom Center will be a catalyst for opening people's minds about realities that many would prefer to sweep under the rug."
Brent Meyer, executive committee president, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Cincinnati Office

When it opens to a national audience on Aug. 23, Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be the realization of a 10-year dream. But even before the doors officially open, some local and national observers say the center's most important work may be yet to come.

Garbed in a message America needs to hear - that individuals can take up, have taken up and must take up the cause of freedom - the center is perfectly poised to become a forum for discussion of some of the nation's most sensitive issues. Like the Carter Center in Atlanta and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., the Freedom Center can become a convening ground, a place where groups can gather to talk openly about racial justice, equity, human rights and economic opportunity.

The center shows it can handle such difficult issues by its sensitive approach to the issue of slavery. Its exhibits seek to raise understanding rather than assign blame. They inspire individuals to examine their own behavior and that of their nation - and to vow to do better.

That creates the right atmosphere for becoming a safe haven for discussion and mediation, for hosting anything from national dialogues on race to presidential debates.

It is clearly a role the center can grow into. So should it?

"Why not? Of course," says Sara Bloomfield, executive director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which steadily expanded its mission to include training FBI agents and engaging federal judges, Navy plebes and Washington schoolchildren. "I see a museum not as a place that limits our vision, but one that enhances our vision. Museums have traditionally not taken a transformative role, but that's changing. The Freedom Center, like our museum, can ask itself, 'Why did we build this?' Not just to look back, but to shape a different present and future."

We present different voices exploring the Freedom Center's role in that future.

Krista Ramsey




SUNDAY FORUM
Special section: Tour the Freedom Center
More than a museum
'Candle in the window' marks a safe house
A grand, bold vision for change
Challenging the barriers to freedom
Other dialogue centers
Editorial:
Freedom Center's bold challenge
Your voice:
'And we'll sing about freedom ...'

EDITORIAL PAGE
Juvenile inmate abuse unconscionable
Many can say no to teens who speed
Obama shines as Democrats' star
Hot Corner
Trail Mix