Monday, April 10, 2006

A safer home than Des Plaines

Freedom MuseumA new museum on North Michigan Avenue is a big story, but the Chicago Tribune faces challenges in assessing the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, the replacement for upscale gadget emporium Hammacher Schlemmer at Tribune Tower.

Tribune Co. stock dividends fund the museum at 435 N. Michigan, which makes it a trickier for the Tribune to cover than last year's launch of the Hershey's Chicago "retail experience." Spring is rife with opportunities for media self-promotion, though, from the Associated Press Managing Editors meeting in Chicago to ABC 7's remodeled street-facing studio to Cubs opening day. So Bill Mullen's Tribune story was a model of restraint.

On my visit a striking feature was the museum's multistory sculpture "12 15 1791." Quotes on First Amendment freedoms are drilled into steel plates suspended along cables to represent 5-year intervals since the Bill of Rights' 1791 ratification. The words reflect against nearby plates in a metaphorical conversation. A staffer said a last-minute reinstallation was forced by electrical problems, which I can only imagine.

Free speech has its price on Michigan Avenue; museum admission is $5, which shouldn't deter families looking for the kind of education not found elsewhere on a Boul Mich tour. School groups get in free, though, with bus subsidies available. A school in Pilsen might make a fine free-speech field trip of a march from Tribune Tower to American Girl Place.

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