Obama Unveils Design, Vision for Presidential Library in Chicago

Former President Barack Obama unveiled plans for his future presidential library and museum on the south side of Chicago where he raised his family and launched his political career.

The designs show a complex of modern buildings, with a library, museum and event center, plus a community garden, a children’s play area and possibly an athletic field.

“What we want this to be is the world-premiere institution for training young people and leadership to make a difference in their communities, in their countries and in the world,” he told the crowd that included Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his one-time chief of staff.

Flanked by drawings and renderings, Obama also announced that he and former first lady Michelle Obama will be donating $2 million to fund a Chicago summer jobs program.

The museum, the tallest of the three buildings, will hold exhibition space, public spaces, offices and education and meeting rooms, according to the Obama Foundation. The forum and library buildings are intended to be used for study and foundation programming. Obama said his foundation, which is overseeing the project, is also looking into the possibility of locating a Chicago Public Library branch on the site.

Obama said he envisioned recording studios where musicians could help young people work on music, and space for movie directors who could take on community storytelling. The center will also have exhibits with campaign memorabilia and personal artifacts.

“Let’s face it, we want to see Michelle’s dresses,” the former president joked.

Obama also squashed any notion that the library was ever going to be elsewhere. Multiple locations in three states — Illinois, New York and Hawaii — had initially pitched proposals.

“The best things that have happened to me in my life happened in this community,” he said. “Although we had a formal bidding process to determine where the presidential library was going to be, the fact of the matter was it had to be right here on the south side of Chicago.”