When we wrapped up the Storefront Library, we wanted to create another small-scale, public space centered on books and learning. To get started, we wiped the slate clean and tried to envision an institution from scratch, starting with the needs of urban residents and neighborhoods, not just existing service models like libraries and community centers. To sustain this train of thought, in our discussions we used a generic name “urban neighborhood institution (UNI)” as a kind of proxy. Pretty soon, the office was covered in folders and whiteboards with the acronym UNI, and, over time, the placeholder just stuck. In the end, we liked the way it sounded: small, approachable, like “mini university.”
Libraries, of course, are part of the Uni’s DNA. But just as important are history museums, historical societies, and local history efforts. To honor that “heritage,” I decided to visit the Chicago History Museum.
This summer in NYC, we’ll be attempting to bring to the street a bit of what these museums and cultural institutions offer behind their walls. If you are an NYC-based institution or programming organization interested in filling a cube, let’s partner!