National Civil Rights Museum previews nearly $30M transformati - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum previews nearly $30M transformation

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New exhibits allow visitors to really experience historic moments like the Brown versus the Board of Education decision and the sit-in movement. New exhibits allow visitors to really experience historic moments like the Brown versus the Board of Education decision and the sit-in movement.
The museum will open to the public April 4. The museum will open to the public April 4.
The museum is opening its doors to Action News 5 cameras Wednesday, March 19. The museum is opening its doors to Action News 5 cameras Wednesday, March 19.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) – Action News 5 had a first look at the nearly $30 million transformation underway at the National Civil Rights Museum. This is leading up to April's grand opening.

The new and improved museum was supposed to open March 1. That date was pushed back to the first week of April. The museum will open to the public April 4, which is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination at the Lorraine Motel.

New exhibits allow visitors to experience historic moments like the Brown versus the Board of Education decision and the sit-in movement. Overall, the museum is more interactive.

Museum officials say the grand opening was not pushed back because of construction setbacks, but because the museum needs more time to familiarize the staff with the new technology and interactive exhibits.

On the tour the first exhibit space is a riveting life-sized exhibit of the hull of a slave ship with figures in it.

See a visual digital tour in this slideshow.

"A person can actually get in the space, crouch down, and feel the inhumanity of what it must have felt like to spend hours crossing the Middle Passage through the West Indies to get to America," said NCRM president Beverly Robertson. "Slaves were literally a commodity. It was the commodity of the slave trade that drove the global economy and created Wall Street."

Museum officials say the Black Power, Black Pride exhibit is powerful.

In the Elliptical Theater visitors hear young people on a movie screen talking about what they are doing to drive change. What the museum wants people to leave with is that they have the power to make change.

Also visitors get inside the Birmingham jail where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous letters. They can walk across the Selma Bridge where marchers were brutally attacked by troopers.

The new and improved "I Am a Man" exhibit tells the story of the moments leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.

"We think a lot of people miss why King came to Memphis. They don't know he came to help striking sanitation workers to get justice and improve their working conditions," said Robertson.

The actual truck from that time was moved from the first to the second floor of the museum.

"We have a film that we're shooting off the body of the truck so people can see what happened in live and living color," said Robertson.

New, life-like statues of people picketing are now shown with sanitation workers telling the world they deserved to be treated like men, but the exhibit is not compete.

"We want to list the names of every sanitation worker that worked for the city at that time," said Robertson. "If you had a relative, a father, a brother, and uncle who worked for the sanitation department, please call us."

There was no change to King's actual motel room. The museum feels that is sacred.

"People, particularly black Memphians, felt a great sadness when King was killed here and felt a certain sense of responsibility that I think does not get talked about enough," said renovation scholar Earnestine Jenkins.

No more audio tours will be offered; the museum is so interactive and hi-tech visitors do not need it. It will now cost $15 for entry instead of $13.

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