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Atlanta History Center

Atlanta History Center
Established 1926
Location 130 West Paces Ferry Road
Type History
Director Sal Cilella
Website Atlanta History Center

The Atlanta History Center is a history museum located in the Buckhead district of Atlanta, Georgia. The Museum was founded in 1926, and currently consists of 12 exhibits. There are also historic gardens and houses located on the grounds, including the Swan House and Tullie Smith Farm. The Museum houses the Kenan Research Center, which includes 3.5 million resources and a reproduction of historian Franklin Garrett's (1906–2000) office. The Museum also has one of the largest collections of Civil War artifacts in the U.S.


The Atlanta History Center operates three types of exhibits - permanent, temporary, and traveling. There are six permanent exhibits.

  • The Centennial Olympic Museum is made up of two sections. One is the upper Sports Lab, accessible by elevator, in which one is able to test himself against the Olympic records. There is also the main area, in which there are artifacts from the Olympics, interactives, information, and films. One of the main attractions is the 12-part test, which allows one to test himself on his Olympic knowledge, and then posts a score.
  • The Turning Point: The American Civil War exhibition contains 1,400 of the Atlanta History Center's enormous collection of Civil War artifacts.
  • The Metropolitan Frontiers exhibit chronicles Atlanta's expansion from farm to city in 4 stages- Rural Region, Transportation Center, Commercial City, and Suburban Metropolis.
  • The Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South exhibit shows the development and attributes of Southern folk art. It includes forms ranging from clothing and food to singing and storytelling and presents both the traditional and the modern.
  • The Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones exhibit is based on the life of Georgia's most famous golfer, Bobby Jones, and chronicles the early development of golf in the United States.
  • The Philip Trammell Shutze: Atlanta Classicist, Connoisseur, and Collector exhibit tells the story of Philip Trammell Shutze, one of Atlanta's foremost architects, who was also known for his art collections. A Phillip Trammell Shutze designed house, the Swan House, is also on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center.

The current temporary exhibits are:

  • The Native Lands: Indians and Georgia exhibit explores the Native Americans’ recent history through the voices and artistry of contemporary Creeks and Cherokees. [throughout 2010]
  • The Voices Across the Color Line: The Atlanta Student Movement exhibit explores the 1960s Civil Rights movement through photographs, documents, videos, and contemporary oral history interviews with Atlanta student leaders.
  • The War in Our Backyards: Discovering Atlanta, 1861-1865 exhibit focuses on Atlanta during the civil war years and links the battles and images of that time to current maps and images.

The Kenan Research Center includes 3.5 million resources and a reproduction of historian Franklin Garrett's office. It frequently has its own special exhibitions.

Historic House Museums

The Swan House at night
  • The Tullie Smith House is an antebellum farmhouse built by the Robert Smith family and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally a small farm in Dekalb County with 11 slaves, comprising Script error: No such module "convert".. The house was moved to the Atlanta History Center grounds in 1969, and it currently comprises the farm house, kitchen, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, double corncrib, log cabin, and barn, and several gardens. The barn contains several animals.[1]
  • The Victorian and Lee playhouses are miniature houses. The Lee playhouse is located between the McElreath Hall and the Tullie Smith Farm. It was donated to the Atlanta History Center in 1998. The Victorian playhouse is located beside the Boxwood Garden. It was donated to the Atlanta History Center in 1980, and has gone through 6 owners.
  • The Swan House, designed by Philip Trammell Shutze in the 1920s, is named for its many swan designs. It is surrounded by the Boxwood Garden, based upon Italian gardens as created in 18th century England by Lord Burlington and William Kent. The front landscape, two cloverleaf fountains and a terraced lawn, is one of the most photographed places in America.[2]
  • The historic gardens are located next to the historic houses. The Cherry Sims garden contains Asian and native south-eastern plants. The Frank A. Smith Rhododendron Garden and the Swan House Boxwood Garden feature native plants. The Quarry Garden features pre-settlement plants only. The Tullie Smith Farm Garden features plants used in 1860s gardening, and includes two parts: a field, filled with profitable vegetables, and a smaller slave's garden.[3]
  • The Atlanta History Center also owns the restored Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, home of Margaret Mitchell from 1925-1932 while she was writing the novel Gone With The Wind. The house includes the Gone With The Wind movie museum, the reconstructed apartment #1 in which Mitchell lived, changing exhibitions, and The Literary Center. This is ticketed separately and is located near the Midtown MARTA station.[4]


The Atlanta History Center was founded in 1926 by fourteen men as the Atlanta Historical Society and the next year began publishing the "Atlanta Historical Bulletin". It was led by Walter McElreath (1867–1951), after whom McElreath Hall is named. The periodical was later named Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South; it was last published in 2006.

In 1986 the still relatively small group received the DuBose Collection of Civil War artifacts, donated by Mrs. Beverly M. DuBose Jr. In 1989, the Society built the current museum to house the DuBose collection. In 1990, the Atlanta Historical Society was renamed the Atlanta History Center. The 15 million dollar museum opened in 1993 with 5 exhibitions, including Metropolitan Frontiers. An 11 million dollar expansion, finished in 1996, added two new permanent exhibits, Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South and Turning Point: The American Civil War and a 220 car parking deck. Later, the library was expanded, the gardens were reorganized, and a fourth permanent exhibit was added- Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones. In 2006, the Centennial Olympic Museum was finished.[5]

In 2014, the city of Atlanta announced its intentions to relocate the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum to become part of the History Center. The museum plans to construct an expansion to house the cylindrical panoramic painting of the Civil War Battle of Atlanta, as well as the Texas locomotive, and other pieces in the Cyclorama collection. The expanded history center is planned to be completed in 2016. [6]


Paved pathways through the historic gardens connect to the Swan House and the Tullie Smith Farm, but most paths are unpaved. Large-print books are available for a few exhibitions in the Atlanta History Museum and videos have subtitles. Maps are available in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.


External links

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