An artist's sketch of the Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta
ATLANTA -- Civil rights museums are all on the docket for Atlanta, Charleston and Jackson, Mississippi.
The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. will be adding a $750 million National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In a few weeks ground will be broken for Atlanta's National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
It is a $30 million building that will be built near the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca Cola on land donated by the beverage giant.
The building will be about 40,000 square feet.
The entire project will cost toward $100 million with the scheduled opening for 2014.
The center will house the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More than 10,000 documents will be in house along with a series of paintings depicting the life of Rep. John Lewis by the late artist Benny Andrews.
The institution will tie civil rights to human rights across the world.
The center will in some ways mirror the Carter Center, whereby, the focus will be on the present and future.
Doug Shipman is the chief executive officer.
11Alive's Jeff Hullinger spoke with Shipman.
Hullinger: How do you keep this finacially viable and academically tight at the same time?
Shipman: Location matters, and we're in a great spot. What you have to do is keep the building small and the program large. You can't overbuild a facility, and we've done that all along the way. We've thought about making sure we're the right size, but that we have enough programs and relationships to really be robust.
Hullinger: What about financing? I see all the great names of Atlanta and Georgia business life, yet you are soliciting private donors too.
Shipman: It's public/private, so the Atlanta Development Authority is now called Invest Atlanta. It's a big part of this through development bonds, lots of corporation support and foundation support. One of the things you want to make sure of is that individuals are invested. This is a community asset. We've had a lot of folks involved in it. For what we are building, we are fully funded and ready to go with all of the finances up front. I think this is an interesting time, and you think about corporate and the philanthropic and the political worlds coming together on this. And I think the reason is because Atlanta's history involves corporations, politicians, and African American faith leaders, and that's exactly the group that we've seen coming together on this.
Hullinger: You will be greatly helped by the coming streetcar project for Downtown Atlanta.
Shipman: Yes. The streetcar will in essence create bookends with the King District on one end, us on the other, and Auburn Avenue and its history in the middle. You can start on either end, ride the trolley and spend the entire day understanding Atlanta's special role and also thinking about the ongoing issues of civil and human rights.
Hullinger: You break ground very soon. In this political year, this would be a very good event for the president to attend. Is he coming?
Shipman: Well, we have extended an invitation, and we are hopeful not only that the president but others who are civil rights and human rights leaders in the field [will come]. We are hopeful a few folks will come because we really do think this is an exciting time.
Hullinger: Is The Carter Center a template? They are more than a museum of artifacts. They are out in the world making a difference in places like Africa. Will you do the same?
Shipman: Very similar. What we have said is we are building this facility for people who did not live through the civil rights movement, for those beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, so we are taking the history and looking ahead. What does it mean today, what is the ongoing legacy? And how do you apply the lessons of the nonviolent movement? We are really thinking about it applying to what's happening on the contemporary stage.
Hullinger: Museums must be interesting. How do you stir families to come in and come back?
Shipman: One of the things we did early on was to get a storyteller to design the actual way that we tell history. George C. Wolfe, a Tony Award winning broadway producer and film director is the one who is actually designing how we tell the story, telling that story using drama. It will be very much like a film you will walk through. Unlike a lot of museums that are just objects, this will be an emotional experience, and then you'll go into a space of what's happening today, and we'll have multiple ways families can understand the issues.
Hullinger: You are a Harvard guy. Atlanta is many layered. It is not easy to get a vibe as to how business is done here. How have you been able to understand this quickly?
Shipman: There were some advantages for me. The community coming together to buy the King Papers really served as a template for the group that brought the facility to life. And (former) Mayor Shirley Franklin's lead on that effort rallied a lot of people together to bring those papers back to Atlanta, and so I think that same group and that energy has carried over to this. I also think there is a big difference between people born after 1970 and after. Those born after 1970 do not remember segregation and they expect people to work together on those issues. And you expect gay rights to be included in a civil rights conversation. A lot of our board members are relatively young.
Hullinger: Who is the architect of the building?
Shipman: Phil Freelon. He is based in North Carolina and is the architect of the new Smithsonian breaking ground this year. We have updated the design and will be releasing it in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for that.