Special Projects

Living Like Kings Education Area
October 9, 2014 - February 23, 2015
For several months during Living Like Kings, the Learning Lab housed computers and iPads loaded with educational programs concerning both hip hop and chess. Visitors were free to play and explore on these devices, directly engaging with the two pillars of the exhibition. The Education Area allowed for individuals to learn more about chess and hip hop at their own pace, adding to their understanding of the exhibition as a whole.

History of Chess

With a history spanning over 1500 years, chess is one of the world’s most ancient games. It finds its origins in India, where a game called chaturanga, a predecessor of chess, emerged in the 6th century A.D. During the following century it spread to Persia as shatranj, and later through Arab empires, eventually reaching Europe. As the game was taken up by new players across the globe, the rules changed and pieces gained more dynamic movement. In the 15th and 16th centuries, chess adopted rules closer to its current ones, and authors began to write books analyzing the game. 

In the mid-19th century, modern tournament play began, and the now-iconic Staunton chess set was created in England. In 1886, Wilhelm Steinitz won the first World Chess Championship, four games of which were held in Saint Louis. The next century saw the 1924 founding of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation), the international governing body of chess. The invention of the computer, game databases, and powerful chess engines changed the way that players approached the ancient war game in the 20th and 21st centuries. Though chess has evolved greatly since its creation, it maintains an emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge and development of new strategies, while still celebrating the accomplishments of past players.

History of Hip Hop

In the 1970s, hip hop emerged on the streets of New York amidst a community that had suffered from displacement and entrenched poverty resulting from failed urban renewalinitiatives. A cultural movement and a way of life, hip hop gave a voice to young African Americans, whose perspectives had not previously been celebrated in mainstream Americanculture. DJ Kool Herc, who was born in Jamaica and immigrated to New York City, was one of the earliest innovators in hip hop, credited as the creator of breakbeat DJing. AfrikaBambaataa, one of hip hop’s early pioneers and the founder of the Universal Zulu Nation, named MCing, DJing, B-boying, and graffiti as the four main elements of hip hop. He later added knowledge as the fifth element, which unites the other four.  

Hip hop gained mainstream acclaim in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the release of the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight and the premiere of the first rap video on MTV. Hip hop experienced a “golden age” from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, when artists released groundbreaking, creative albums that invigorated the form. Today it is both one of the most popular and diverse musical genres, defined by its emphasis on self-teaching, a knowledge of history, and a spirit of competition. Hip hop continues to evolve, with new artists building on the traditions of the past and creating new forms.