The highly anticipated Center for Civil and Human Rights officially opened to the public on Monday, June 23.
Serving as a connector between past and present, The Center shares powerful stories of individuals and civil and human rights movements, and invites visitors to reflect on how they can create a more just and humane future for all. The cultural institution creates an immersive visitor experience through light, sound, images and the written word, all designed to inspire patrons and stimulate thought-provoking dialogue.
“The Center uniquely and boldly connects historic freedom movements and iconic individuals, as well as everyday people, with the human rights issues of the present, thus sparking ongoing dialogue around the possibilities of the future,” said Doug Shipman, CEO of The Center. Designed with multimedia displays, compelling artifacts and interactive activities, The Center’s exhibits are created to empower people to take the protection of every human’s rights personally. “When we connect to others and to their circumstances, that emotional connection often compels us to lend our support, to take action even though we may never know or meet those who are affected, as evidenced by the courageous stories of many individuals featured in the exhibits. The Center draws on that innate characteristic of our humanity to inspire and empower visitors to help create a better world for us all,” continued Shipman.
The Center is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. The 42,000-square-foot facility will house four primary exhibitions:
“Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection” presents a rare collection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal papers and items. The exhibition gallery—an intimate, peaceful room—sets the mood by projecting the expression “I have a dream” in glimmering light upon a black granite wall in twenty-five languages, thus reinforcing what has become a worldwide call to action for civil rights. This allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the thoughts, emotions and memories of the great Dr. King. The exhibit will be rotated continually, offering a well-rounded view of Dr. King as an icon and as a man.
“Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement” brings the amazing history of civil rights to generations who were not alive to experience that tumultuous and transformational time. It comprises a series of eight sequential exhibitions that bring to life the defining moments of the modern American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Using experiential technology, vibrant colors, sound, interactives and the written word, the narrative of these historical events is captured in a dramatic and memorable way.
“Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement” is brought to life in the expansive, light-filled Human Rights Gallery, which illuminates both individuals and global human rights issues. The exhibit is designed to allow visitors to engage deeply with the interactive displays and experience a personal connection to individuals with whom they share traits and characteristics who are taking a stand in the contemporary fight for human rights.
A fourth “temporary exhibition” space will feature two inaugural-year exhibitions celebrating powerful works by Georgia artist Benny Andrews from his iconic “John Lewis Series.”
HOK is the largest US-based architecture-engineering firm and the country’s third largest interior design firm. HOK has received several awards and recognitions, including being named the number one architecture and engineering firm by Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record and receiving the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Best in Real Estate Award—Best in Design for their collaborative work with the Freelon Group on The Center.
The interactive civil rights exhibition was created by George C. Wolfe, the exhibition’s chief creative officer. Wolfe developed and conceptualized exhibits that bring civil and human rights to life through the use of storytelling, which is further complimented by multisensory experiences designed to give visitors the feeling of what it was like to live during The American Civil Rights Movement. One of Broadway’s most respected directors and writers, Wolfe’s résumé includes Tony Award–winning Broadway sensations such as “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk” and “Angels in America” as well as box-office smashes such as “Nights in Rodanthe.”
In her role as human rights exhibition curator of the “Spark of Conviction: Global Human Rights Movement” gallery, Jill Savitt helped establish the relevance between historical and contemporary human rights issues. With an extensive background in genocide prevention and strategic communications for human rights issues, Jill serves as a special advisor at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
The Center’s exhibition designer David Rockwell and Rockwell Group created a dynamic synergy between Wolfe’s and Savitt’s rich stories and the physical layout of the galleries. Rockwell Group designed unique, immersive spaces using a comprehensive array of audiovisual media, interactives, photography and textual and environmental graphics. They have taken the curatorial narrative and given it a thoughtful and exciting three-dimensional presence.
The Center will also provide unique venue spaces that can host a variety of events, from business meetings and conferences to cocktail parties and receptions. The Center has both indoor and outdoor spaces that can accommodate small and large events.
Normal operating hours of The Center will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. The Center is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Adult tickets are $15 and child (ages 3–unlimited free admission for one year, access to members-only events, and special discounts on programming, events and gift memberships.