Chattanooga is the perfect place to learn about how America has been made and remade. Chattanooga has been a crossroads where some of the most crucial intersections of the nation’s history have met. It is here where the first steps on the Trail of Tears were taken, it was here that a railroad transportation revolution linked the interior of the continent with the coast, it was here that the Civil War’s final turning point was reached, it was here that African Americans sought their freedom and their place in the nation, it was here that a diverse and thriving industrial economy (one of the most complex and varied in the nation) developed, and it is here where the very worst of America’s environmental degradation took place. It is also here where the Renaissance of Chattanooga created a new city and provided the model for other cities seeking inspirational ways to aggressively engage the entire community in the process of imagining and planning for the future and combine environmental sensitivity with a sustainable economy.
The goal of the new Chattanooga History Center, opening in early 2015, is to tell the stories of the messiness, cacophony, and uncertainty that went into making this place. Telling these stories in a sophisticated and technologically savvy way will help us learn about how to make our own futures by understanding the ways people encountered unknowable futures and in their own times made the future.