The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, a center being built in Boston and designed to educate the public about the Senate, will open next March, officials leading the project announced today.
The “heart and soul” of the 65,000 square-foot facility will be a full-scale replica of the Senate chamber, officials said.
The project, which broke ground three years ago, is under construction next door to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus in Dorchester.
It will also honor Kennedy, who died of brain cancer in 2009.
His widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, co-founder and president of the institute’s board, called the institute’s mission “as clear as it is urgent.”
“It will offer a real time perspective on how government should work,” she said in a statement.
“It will show how throughout our history, men and women of goodwill and both parties came together to address the greatest challenges facing our nation,” she continued. “And by shining a light on our past, it will help illuminate the path forward for addressing challenges we face today and in the future.”
Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, the institute will offer “cutting-edge” technology to teach the Senate’s history.
The replica Senate chamber, at certain times, will broadcast debates and votes of bills currently before the Senate. At other times, up to 100 guests will be able to play the roles of senators in an educational simulation allowing them to study, debate, negotiate and vote on either current or historic issues.
Visitors touring the chamber will get to use handheld tablet devices to interact with content and each other.
The institute will also feature sections that will give basic educational information about the Senate, its role in government, the 2,000 or so men and women who have served on the Senate, major legislative struggles and accomplishments and citizens who inspired legislative and societal change.
There will be a multi-player game for visitors to work toward finding common ground to pass a bill, while simultaneously learning about how bills become law.
The center will include a “pledge wall” designed to encourage visitors to become more active.
And, it will feature a full-scale replica of Kennedy’s Senate office and reception room, complete with historic furnishings, pictures, photos and artifacts from his 47 years in the Senate.
Leading up to its opening and public dedication next March, the institute plans to roll out activities and programming as part of its outreach efforts.