Museum to exhibit student’s office

Many GW students helped make history in their efforts to elect Barack Obama to the presidency. But senior Kyle Lierman will have elements from his campaign activities for the president-elect preserved for history.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture will use items from a Falls Church, Va., field office run by Lierman for an exhibit scheduled to open in 2015. The display will include the nuts and bolts of a campaign office, including maps, strategy boards and even a sign reading “Obama is not your mama,” which reminded campaign volunteers to clean up after themselves.

Everything from the field office will be included in the exhibit, even the trash and recycling bins, said Jacquelyn Serwer, chief curator of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

“We wanted to gather enough authentic material to create a space in the museum that would allow our visitors to have a sense of what it was like to be part of this campaign – to be a volunteer in one of the key offices,” Serwer said. “The items we’ve collected will allow us to set the stage in a compelling manner.”

Smithsonian curators were quick to pick up the items, announcing plans for the exhibit barely one week after Obama’s victory. Serwer said the Obama campaign and presidency will be a crucial component of demonstrating black history to the museum’s visitors.

“We view the African-American narrative as the quintessential American story, and the success of Obama illustrates this in a dramatic way,” she said.

Lierman remains on the Obama campaign payroll and said in an interview that he is prohibited from being quoted directly.

Lierman began his work with Obama during last winter break, when he traveled to Charleston, S.C., and volunteered for the president-elect during the state’s primary election. In the next few months, he followed the campaign to Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virgnia, all while a full-time student, he said in an interview with The Hatchet.

After he requested a payback on his tuition from the University, Lierman was able to devote all of his time to the Obama campaign.

In Falls Church, he was appointed field organizer and was responsible for raising funds and seeking a location for an office. Lierman and his team found an abandoned beauty school to house the office, which went on to become the largest field office in Virginia.

Lierman sought to find as many volunteers and make as many phone calls as possible in the last few months leading up to the election. The campaign provided him with a list of volunteers, a cell phone and little else, he said.

While Lierman said the eventual win was expected, he was excited and gratified. The Smithsonian donation allows a portion of his excitement to be archived for future generations.

“The campaign and election of Obama is a story that will be of interest to museum visitors in 2015 and for generations to come,” Serwer said. “I believe our audience will view the Obama installation as one of the museum’s most interesting attractions and one that will appeal to a diverse and cross-generational group.”

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