I am designing and building a portable historical society that can navigate the bustling urban environment of today’s SoHo while showing a glimpse of its past. Using unconventional media such as Viewmaster viewers and a smell station, I will chronicle the evolution of SoHo from rural farmland to high-end retail hub, charting its cycles of development and thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.
When I was growing up in SoHo, I remember walking down desolate streets. There were no stores or restaurants, but I felt safe because everyone who lived here knew each other. I learned how to ride a bike in my house. And I also often slept in my coat because we didn’t have heat after 5 pm.
When people think of SoHo today, they think of high-end shopping and expensive lofts. Nobody thinks of it as a tight-knit community where children roamed free and people actually knew and liked their neighbors. That was the SoHo of my childhood. That was the SoHo out of which ideas such as the adaptive reuse of buildings and loft living were born, ideas that influence how we live today.
My name is Yukie Ohta, and I am a writer, archivist, and founder of The SoHo Memory Project, a blog and archive preserving and sharing the history of SoHo as a New York City neighborhood. SoHo currently has no neighborhood society dedicated to preserving its history, and I think it deserves one.
Working in partnership with The Uni Project, a nonprofit dedicated to creating pop-up learning experiences across the city, I hope that this exhibition will be just the first step in finding a permanent home for The SoHo Memory Project.
At the forefront of a new wave in exhibition design, the cart for this roving exhibition will be adapted from designs for portable reading rooms created for the Uni Project by Höweler + Yoon Architecture and operated by the Uni Project across New York City today.
My long-term plan is for The SoHo Memory Project to have a physical space where people can come to learn more about our neighborhood. But before I can apply for grants to sustain my project for the long-term, I need to produce something tangible that I can bring to funders to demonstrate my knowledge and commitment. Help me create a pop-up historical society by donating today.
If we preserve SoHo’s past, present generations will understand our neighborhood’s rich history, and this understanding will inform how we all shape its future.
What is The SoHo Memory Project?
The SoHo Memory Project is a blog and archive preserving and sharing the history of SoHo as a New York City neighborhood. Its focus is on SoHo as a community, a neighborhood comprised of a wide variety of people, families, businesses, community groups, and, only incidentally, all manner of creative activity. (www.sohomemory.com)
Why am I doing this?
Although there are archives throughout the world that collect the personal papers of significant artists and individuals who were SoHo pioneers, SoHo itself has no historical society dedicated to preserving its history as a neighborhood, nor is there any library or museum that tells its story.
Knowing the story of our neighborhood and its significance in the larger history of New York City will enrich the experiences of SoHo residents and visitors alike and will influence how they interact with the people, streets, and idea of SoHo. I hope that this exhibition program will be just the first step in making a permanent home for The SoHo Memory Project!
What will the exhibition look like?
The Uni Reading Room cart, which has traveled to countless public spaces across New York City, both indoors and out, will be redesigned to be a Museum Cart that can accommodate small exhibits and allow for hands-on interaction with objects.
The exhibition will be designed to be accessible to all audiences by including objects, ephemera, photographs, sound, and video, as well as artwork from SoHo artists that will complement the various narratives on display. I will also incorporate unconventional media, including 3-D printed miniatures, comic books, LP record jackets, family photo albums, a smelling station, and even Viewmaster viewers.
What is The Uni Project?
The Uni Project is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to books and learning opportunities through pop-up installations. Based in New York City, the project operates a program of open-air reading rooms that bring architect-designed structures, high quality books, and dedicated staff to the city's plazas, parks, and public spaces. The project also makes reading room kits for libraries and other nonprofits around the world.
How does a mobile exhibition work?
At the forefront of a new wave in exhibition design, the cart for this roving exhibition will be adapted from designs for portable reading rooms created for the Uni Project by Höweler + Yoon Architecture and operated by the Uni Project across New York City today. Lightweight and versatile, and able to go indoors as well as outdoors, the cart can show up in shops, cafes, and other publicly accessible spaces where people already gather in the neighborhood.
Locations and times will be announced via social media, but most visitors will happen upon it by chance. The immediacy of the exhibition will allow for a visceral experience that will ideally linger with viewers as they go on with their excursions through SoHo and inform the way they interact with the neighborhood
What will the money be used for?
Funds will go towards building the Uni Museum Cart and purchasing materials that I’ll use to create the exhibition. I’ll also work with several local designers to fabricate custom designed items that help display artifacts and ephemera. And most importantly, the funds will go toward setting us up so that we are in a position to grow toward our long-term goal of creating a permanent historical society for SoHo!
Are contributions tax deductible?
The Uni Project is a 501c3 nonprofit and serves as the fiscal sponsor of the The SoHo Memory Project, so your donation is tax deductible.
There is more information about The SoHo Memory Project and the exhibition on this site and at sohomemory.com. Please stay tuned for updates during this funding drive. Thanks to everyone who has supported this project thus far, and thanks for Kickstarter for making it possible for me to reach you today!
Risks and challenges
I readily admit that my goals are ambitious. This is why I am beginning slowly, with a series of exhibitions. They will give me a chance to gauge public interest while also experimenting with the museum cart and different types of displays. With the feedback we get from this first run, we will be able to tweak our methods and designs to maximize the educational power and reach of this project. Then we will be ready to apply for grants in order to sustain The SoHo Memory Project and, one hopes, find it a permanent home.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)