Can the StoryMining250 project make us less divided?

Levine Museum of the New South’s oral history initiative seeks to build bridges among differences.

Levine Museum of the New South

Levine Museum of the New South (Photo: Levine Museum staff)

As a transplant whose prior Charlotte knowledge was limited to the football field and basketball court, Levine Museum of the New South was one of the first places that opened my eyes to the DNA of Charlotte culture. Hearing stories from real people — mainly black and brown people — as I walked through the award-winning “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” exhibit, triggered my curiosity about those who knew of a time before the brewery and luxury apartment crazes.

It’s also what intrigued me about the museum’s upcoming #HomeCLT exhibit. The description that “we are all a part of Charlotte’s story and history” rings true, for better or worse. In observance of the city’s 250th birthday, Levine Museum has launched its StoryMining250 initiative to gather 250 oral histories of Charlotte’s residents from all walks of life.

I’ve appreciated Levine Museum’s role as a backdrop to community conversations that can lead to healthy debate, like when I attended a film screening last summer that followed four families’ reactions to the Trayvon Martin verdict. In a mixed crowd of black and white people, addressing the elephants in the room felt like steps closer to progress. As community members look to make sense of serious changes sweeping our city, the museum wants to use these histories to bridge differences and build empathy among us. It’s a tall order, but I choose to be hopeful. Ask me again a year from now.

Interested individuals can share their stories — or nominate someone — over the next year in written, video, audio or illustrated formats. Visit the museum’s website for more details.

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