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KNOXVILLE — The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy has received a $100,000 Community Enhancement Grant to create lesson plans, enhance the museum exhibit and purchase technology for the classrooms at its new building on the campus of the University of Tennessee.

Baker Center gets grant
Baker Center gets grant
The Baker Center, now housed in Hoskins Library on campus, is scheduled to move into its new building at 1640 Cumberland Ave. later this year. A grand opening celebration is being planned for this fall.

A press conference announcing the Community Enhancement Grant was held Friday, March 14, and those attending took a tour of the new building.

Sens. Jamie Woodson and Tim Burchett sponsored the Community Enhancement Grant bill and spoke at Friday’s press conference. They praised the Baker Center for furthering the public’s knowledge of governmental processes and promoting public policy work.

The new facility will include a museum that will tell the story of how government works, using Sen. Baker’s life as a backdrop. The museum also will explore modern Tennessee politics and engage students and adults in interactive civic exhibits. The building will house the Modern Political Archives and include a 200-seat auditorium for programs, as well as classrooms with break-out rooms for instruction and conferences.

Baker Center Executive Director Alan Lowe said the grant will provide money for programs catering to students, teachers and the public. The money also will reinstate a few audio and visual enhancements that had to be cut from construction plans as costs rose.

Nissa Dahlin-Brown, associate director and principal investigator for the grant, plans to enlist K-12 teachers to create lesson plans and unique activities that complement the museum exhibit and meet Tennessee education standards.

Many of these materials will be available to museum visitors, as well as online. Teacher workshops also will be presented.

“Our lesson plans and other educational materials will make use of the Baker Center’s tremendous Modern Political Archives. These collections, including the papers of Sen. Baker and many other modern Tennessee leaders, form an amazing resource of primary materials,” Dahlin-Brown said.

The materials and lesson plans will focus on Tennessee political history, with an emphasis on the 20th and 21st centuries; modern Tennessee political leaders; the United States Congress; the White House; the judiciary; foreign relations and diplomacy; the role of the press; founding principles of our republic; a selection of public policy issues, such as energy policy; and the importance of public service and civic engagement.

About $65,000 of the grant will go to enhance the museum exhibit with audio and video components as well as computer simulations.

“For example, we plan to create an eight-minute video about the momentous events that have taken place in the Russell Caucus Room. Sen. Baker rose to national prominence during the Senate Watergate hearings that were held in the Russell Caucus Room. Other hearings held there have included the Iran-Contra hearings, hearings for the Truman Committee and the McCarthy hearings,” Lowe said.

“We also would like to include an interactive component where visitors view and deliver famous speeches by reading from a teleprompter or create a speech of their own as they stand behind a podium. This element will provide not only an interactive way to experience history, it also will impart a lesson about the importance of political communications.”

Lowe said they also would like to present a program, using video and perhaps a holographic image of Sen. Baker, in which visitors are encouraged to learn more about their government and lend their own talents in some sort of public service or civic engagement.

“This type of ‘theatrical embellishment’ tends to stick in a visitor’s mind and will definitely make an impression on young people. And since the youth of our community are our future, it is critical they learn how our government works and the importance of being civically engaged,” he said.

In addition, the grant will be used to purchase 10 to 15 laptop computers for use in the Baker Center’s four classrooms and one large meeting space.

The Baker Center is a nonpartisan center that develops educational programs and promotes civic engagement and research to further the public’s understanding and knowledge of our system of governance, critical public policy issues and the importance of public service. The center embodies a genuine respect for differing points of view, and it serves as a forum for discussion, debate, education and research.

More photos from the press conference are available at

For more information about the Baker Center, see


Amy Blakely, media relations, (865) 974-5034,

Alan Lowe, (865) 974-8515,