As a contributing structure in the Stone Fort Land Company Historic District, the Purse Printing Company grew from a lone wooden one-story structure where the Dwell Hotel parking lot now sits, facing Columbia Street. Built in 1911, the City of Chattanooga acquired the property in the 1930s. It’s been used as the Municipal Water Company up until the 2000s, and has been home to miscellaneous City departments since. It’s currently underutilized and ready to be surplused. Our proposal is to use the Purse Building as a center and museum for industry.
Specifically, this is how the Chattanooga Maker Center/Museum of Industry compliment the Qualities of the Innovation District.
Diversity and Inclusion
Past and present, Chattanooga’s historical footprint has been tightly focused on its local pioneers, business leaders, influencers, politicians, and the Civil War timeline. The direction of the Chattanooga Maker Center is to provide a broader narrative that’s inclusive of every representative who contributed to Chattanooga’s industrial story. All of our permanent exhibits will take direction mainly from a working-class perspective.
In addition, a permanent exhibit will interpret women’s roles in Chattanooga’s workforce.
Cultural discovery is a byproduct of an active history organization. We’ll reveal deeper stories about minorities and their role in making Chattanooga. We also anticipate open collaborations with existing cultural organizations to mutually strengthen our missions.
Much like the UnFoundation of Chattanooga, we’ll offer micro-grants throughout the year. Some of these can be themed to encourage culturally-oriented history projects within the Innovation District. The micro-grant pool of donors will have control of selecting the projects they wish to back.
The Maker Center is devoted to students and educators, by providing a fulltime educational schedule through our Education Forward program. Every student enrolled in the Hamilton County School System will be granted a free and unlimited pass to the museum. This continuous field trip includes access to supplemental online tools that connect pupils with our collections and stories. Free access underscores our dedication to diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, giving every young person, regardless of their economic situation, an opportunity to be inspired by local history.
Specific educational programs are yet to be announced, but we plan to have at least one youth career development path that interfaces with local entrepreneurs and innovators.
Adult programs will feature walking tours throughout Downtown Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.
Also, we’ll offer interning opportunities to local universities.
By definition, innovation is a new method, idea, product, etc. We are primarily a start-up. The Chattanooga Maker Center is navigating an alternative and less traveled path through local history and creating new experiences using traditional, innovative, and creative applications like oral history collections and large scale digitization projects. Space will be limited, so we’ll have to rely on technology to fill in areas that cannot be physically displayed.
Through our Story Lab, we’ll be aggressive in collecting audio and visual stories that otherwise would fade or be lost.
A growing income opportunity will be our Digital South lab, which will offer state-of-the-art scanning and digital preservation tools and services to local, regional, and national organizations and institutions for a reasonable cost. Local organizations can purchase a cost-saving self-serve subscription, to encourage the growth of Chattanooga’s digital, historical, and collections footprint. The lab would include large format scanning for photographs, negatives, fragile and valuable documents, and textiles. Also equipment for object photography and 3D mapping hardware and software.
Because of limited space, we’ll utilize facilities within the Innovation District for our larger programs and will commit to being an active partner with other group events. We also plan to reboot a Chattanooga Spring (Street) Festival, which has been dormant for over 100 years. Its festival midway originated a block over on E. 11th. (Pending permits, etc.)
Through space devoted to temporary exhibits, we will be able to keep the museum fresh for the returning visitor and host smaller events and meetings for ourselves and other local history nonprofits and projects. Through our micro-grant program, we hope to encourage and seed new start-up history and preservation organizations and projects.
Data and digital assets are critical deliverables to our success. We’ll carry over the digital activities of Picnooga and supercharge the effort through Digital South. The museum will limit itself to cleverness and creativity without overdoing technology. We’ll be turning to the local arts community to help us with creating a unique and dynamic museum experience.
The museum hopes to attract a variety of visitors and reach many more through our online channels and properties. Picnooga currently has reached close to 250,000 desktops a month with a social engagement of over 100,000 reactions, shares, and comments per month. Picnooga’s social footprint already is a size comparable to the Atlanta History Center and often exceeds their reach, especially in user engagement.
Crunching the numbers and averages of local museum’s attendance, we are confident we can serve at minimum 16,000 adult admissions, 2,000 (Ages 7 to 5) youth admissions, and between 3,000 to 5,000 student passes in our first year. This is about one-third of the Chattanooga History Center first-year projections. We’re hoping that grants and other available funds will cover most youth education operating costs, and adult programs will be an additional ticket price. We also anticipate 600 paid members to the museum its first year, which is one-fifth of the CHC’s first-year projections. A membership estimate is based on levels of crowdfunding achieved by Picnooga over the past five years.
The 8,500 sq ft Purse Building is a little over 10,000 sq ft less than the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. Space will be limited, and we’re hoping to free up to 6,000 sq ft for exhibit space.
Sustainability is paramount, which is why we’re keeping the scope and scale relatively small, but with the anticipation of an equal or a greater positive community impact as a 20,000 sq ft history museum in the center of Chattanooga’s tourist district.
The Purse Building
The Purse Building’s Colonial Revival architecture fits with the public’s anticipated silhouette of a museum. Its location sits directly in the hub of an active cultural area, with the Bessie Smith Cultural Center African American Museum and Performance Hall located nearby on E. MLK Blvd. at Lindsay Street. Also, located only a few blocks away are ArtBuild, Jazzanooga, SoundCorps, and Causeway. The Chattanooga Public Library Downtown Branch is only few blocks west and within the Innovation District. All will add tremendous value as potential community partners or collaborators.
We acknowledge the location is a few blocks off the beaten path of a tourist’s sightline. We’ll have to work hard to build and sustain a public and visitor awareness campaign. We’ll participate in flex ticketing programs with other museums and local attractions and be proactive members of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Also, we’ll continue to grow our already well-established social channels to increase our reach further. In addition, we’ll collaborate with the art community to create a unique and memorable exterior art installation within City guidelines and permitting, but that’s not damaging to the historic building’s integrity or structure. We’ll add vertical museum signage to the front facade that can be seen from Miller Park and stationed positions on Market Street.
We’re confident the Chattanooga Maker Center/Museum of Industry organically share the values set by the Innovation District. As time passes and the District’s framework evolves, will be an invaluable contributor to its success and a positive fixture in its community.
Mailing Address: PO Box 326, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee 37350 Tel: (423) 972-0209