Now Open: A New National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel entered a new phase of life this year. After emerging from an 18-month and $28 million renovation in April, the museum now boasts more modernized displays – think “smart” tables with touch panels that reveal multiple levels of information, audio-visual programs instead of text panels and ample audio snippets. Chill bump inducing iconic exhibits and fixtures like the Montgomery bus, the sit-in counter, and freedom rides bus remain, but have been enhanced with touch-screens that offer a richer educational experience than ever before. 

First open in 1991 with a focus on education of the history of the American civil rights movement, the new large-format exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum shifts from an approach of commemoration to one of inspiration and activism. Visitors new and old will love the addition of more artifacts, more film and media and an updated museum design. Check out exhibits like: 

  • The “Slavery and a Culture of Resistance” exhibit located in a large round room and illuminated with maps and information about the Atlantic slave trade. Visitors can crouch into the a hull of a slave ship and try to image what humans endured as part of the slave trade in the late 1700s. Throughout this exhibit you’ll learn how slaves were brought to the United States, the massive number of people who were impacted and the wealth it created in both the Northern and Southern states.
  • Hear first-person accounts about life under Jim Crow laws. See how “separate but equal” led to economic and social conditions that that tended to be inferior to white Americans. Take in the history of how blacks banded together and slowly chipped away at segregation, one major ruling at a time. Through interactive touch screens, you’ll see how Brown v. Board of Education put a ripple in the pond of integration, and eventually was a major victory of the civil rights movement. 
  • In one of the museum’s original exhibits, you can step aboard a vintage bus and hear the altercation between a public transit system worker in Montgomery and Rosa Parks. Nearby, three dimensional figures line the sidewalk while listening booths and touch screens highlight the timeline of the 382 day Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • It’s almost like you were there in real life. The 1963 March on Washington exhibit immerses the user into a life-like setting while an audio excerpt plays from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Don't miss the touch pads which feature first-hand accounts of the march.
  • Listening posts highlight personal stories of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike and events surrounding King’s death. 
  • An all new education center, expanded multi-purpose space, and a bold new “Join the Movement” area that encourages visitors to take lessons from the 20th century movement and apply them to today’s challenges.
  • A redesigned lobby contains a grand staircase and the “Movement to Overcome” statue.

The National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Hotel is a place in history and symbolism, not just for black Americans but for all who cherished King’s ideals and vision. The museum may be built with bricks and mortar, but the message the National Civil Rights Museum delivers is enough to change the world, one visitor at a time. 

Admission to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and students with ID and $12 for children ages 4-17. Plan for at least two hours to take the self-guided tour. The museum is closed every Tuesday.

For information about visiting the National Civil Rights Museum or any of the new exhibits, please click civilrightsmuseum.org