The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center received a prestigious grant that will further enhance its award-winning exhibits with new interactive features.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently awarded the Cultural Heritage Center nearly $100,000. The funds will support the CHC’s efforts to modernize and enhance technology to improve the visitor experience.
The funds, totaling $99,974, will be used to update dedicated touch screens, add direct and ambient surround sound speakers and upgrade computers, said CHC Senior Curator Blake Norton.
Work on the improvements will begin soon.
“Everything has been finalized in terms of design and content creation. Next is installation, testing and final calibrations,” Norton said.
The next evolution of the gallery space involves modernizing the interactive portions of the exhibits with visitor-directed narratives that respond to guest interaction. The CHC receives about 18,000 visitors each year. Several thousand visitors come through the museum during annual events like the Family Reunion Festival and FireLake Fireflight Balloon Fest.
The Cultural Heritage Center has successfully kept exhibits fresh for visitors through a continual process of refining narratives and exhibition methods, Norton said. It is important the gallery space is continually updated with reliable equipment and the latest technology, allowing visitors to fully engage and enjoy their experience.
Planned improvements include updated touch-screen interfaces, speakers and computers that deliver content to gallery screens. The Cultural Heritage Center will revitalize exhibit narratives by changing the structure of interactive content from static loops to visitor-selected topics, Norton said. The goal is to create a gallery space that is more visitor-directed and responsive for Tribal members, members of other tribes and non-Native visitors.
Over time, touchscreens and other technology gradually become less responsive and less effective, Norton said. Just as people regularly upgrade the technology they use, so must the museum.
“High resolution interactives have become the norm in daily life, and this has increased expectations for any platform that uses technology, including museum exhibits,” Norton said.
Tribal members who want to improve their understanding of Potawatomi history and traditions can do so without encountering technology that is outdated or does not work to original specifications, he added.
The Cultural Heritage Center anticipates no disruptions to day-to-day operations and minimal impacts to the galleries.
“To mitigate any extended closure of our galleries during renovation, we plan to tackle a maximum of two sub-galleries at a time. This will allow for a more focused approach and faster completion,” Norton said.
Any group planning a tour during renovations may contact the Cultural Heritage Center if they have questions about the renovation project and their scheduled tour, he added.
The CHC’s mission is to educate Tribal members and the community on Potawatomi heritage, history and culture. Since its opening in 2006, the museum has received dozens of state and national awards. Most recently, the CHC received 2022 Bruce T. Fisher Award: Outstanding Oklahoma History Project from the Oklahoma Historical Society. Learn more at potawatomiheritage.com.
IMLS is an independent agency of the United States federal government. It was established in 1996 to offer grants to support libraries, museums and cultural heritage institutions. Learn more at imls.gov.