But this time it’s not so much about physical size as it is a refreshing growth in opportunity.
We refer to the recent announcement that our community’s beloved Museum Center at Five Points has signed an agreement with a prominent Washington, D.C., partner that establishes the downtown hot spot for regional history as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
Museum advocates understand the significance, but others — and understandably so — might be scratching their heads in bewilderment and asking, “OK ... so what’s the big deal?”
It’s an honest question.
And here’s an equally as honest answer.
To be designated as a Smithsonian affiliate is not just a big deal. It is a huge deal. Any local or regional museum — regardless of size, stature or location — that earns such a distinction is not only placing its community on the map, it is opening the door for unprecedented opportunity among its populace.
Suddenly, our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown finds itself as a gateway into American and even global history. Local vacationers who previously relied on expensive, long-distance trips to the nation’s capital — or to other big cities with metropolitan museums — for a chance to view rare exhibits provided only by the Smithsonian will now have opportunities to see some of the same in our own big little Southeast Tennessee town.
Here’s a perspective. For those who have ever visited Washington, D.C., what are some of the attractions that you dared not miss?
White House. Check.
U.S. Capitol. Check.
Lincoln Memorial. Check.
Washington Memorial. Check.
Jefferson Memorial. Check.
National Archives. Check.
Ford’s Theater. Check.
Vietnam War Memorial. Check.
All U.S. war memorials. Check.
Library of Congress. Check.
African American Museum of History and Culture. Check.
Holocaust Memorial Museum. Check.
Others surely make most tourists’ lists, and among them are the Smithsonian Institution museums. To step into a Smithsonian is to take a stroll into the history of mankind and the journey includes many paths: science, art, natural history and many others.
And now, some of the same exhibits could — and here, we must emphasize “could” — find their way to Cleveland’s own Museum Center at Five Points as a temporary loan, especially those on national tour.
Of course, not all Smithsonian offerings will be sought by the local museum because of relevance and regional interest, but certainly we hope — and we encourage — Museum Center leaders to pursue as many opportunities as possible.
It’s worth remembering this. The Smithsonian operates 19 major museums in the Washington and New York City areas, and it boasts affiliate partnerships with 177 museums in the United States, Puerto Rico and Panama.
But, the Smithsonian has partnered with only six museums in Tennessee. These include the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture in Knoxville, the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, the Memphis Rock “N” Soul Museum in Memphis and the Museum of Appalachia in Norris.
This limited list speaks volumes for the importance of gaining a Smithsonian partnership. Perhaps Hassan Najjar, Museum Center executive director, said it best when he told our newspaper, “It’s an exclusive thing. Our goal with this is to bring objects and exhibits that would not normally come to Cleveland. It’s pretty special for us.”
That’s an understatement.
In truth, it’s incredibly special and it points to our hometown’s continuing climb into a new era of opportunity. Our community in recent years has become increasingly diverse, and that’s good. It comes with great challenge, but growing pains are a natural part of change.
We applaud the work of Najjar and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers who have waded patiently through an ocean of red tape over the past year in seeking this Smithsonian affiliation.
But their determined efforts have reached fruition and Cleveland area residents, our schools, our businesses, our churches and our civic groups will be the better for it.
As a Smithsonian partner, the Museum Center at Five Points will now create new membership opportunities. One even involves the Cleveland Daily Banner. Readers can receive a 20 percent discount for any memberships they start online by using the promotional code, “BANNER20.”
We urge area residents to sign up.
We encourage a new wave of advocacy for our museum.
For more information about the downtown facility, its programming or the Smithsonian affiliation, visit www.museumcenter.org or call 423-339-5745.
“The City With Spirit” shines again.
We have the Museum Center at Five Points to thank for our latest glow.