Chattanooga History Center seeks to fill funding gap - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga History Center seeks to fill funding gap

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - It has been touted as a new centerpiece for tourism in downtown Chattanooga. The wait continues for the doors to open to the new Chattanooga History Center. Early estimates had it opening in 2013.

Over the past five years, more than 550 donors have raised $9.4 million dollars to help complete the design and infrastructure of the Chattanooga History Center's exhibit hall. The museum's director says it comes down to filling a small funding gap to open the center to the public.

"Our goal to finish...We have $3.4 million to go. That leaves us debt free," says Dr. Daryl Black, Executive Director of the Chattanooga History Center.

The center's website shows just how much of the center's $10.5 million goal has been raised. Black says the center is looking for $1.3 million to pay off the mortgage and close to $2 million for the actual exhibits to be built.

"Everything has been done. Except building the physical exhibit."

Black gave Channel 3 a tour of the massive space, which promises an engaging experience.

"There's an hour and 50 minutes of media and film and interviews that form the core of this exhibit," says Black.

Topics covered include the Cherokee Nation, the Civil War, and segregation, as well as Coca-Cola and other Chattanooga staples. The vision even has the backing of the National Endowments for Humanities, with a $400,000 grant.

"That the was the other thing that the NEH liked about what our project was. They say it's a unique approach to doing a museum. Nobody's doing this," says Black.

Now it is just a matter of closing a funding gap.

"The fundraising challenge to it, given where we started in 2009, was daunting. It's been a campaign that has taken some unexpected turns as we've gone along," says Black.

He says the center started raising money when the economic climate changed. Over the past five years, the City of Chattanooga has allocated a total of $500,000 for capital and $78,000 for operations. The center requested $28,000 last year but that was not approved.

"The city continues to be a strong ally and a good friend."

His message to those doubting and waiting: "Have faith."

Black says he is confident the center can get a loan to finish, although not having any operating history makes it difficult. He says the center is still gladly welcoming donations from private donors. He says as soon as the remaining money is secured it will take six months to open the doors.
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