In keeping with a city that is so rich with history and culture, Atlanta is abounding with museums devoted to celebrating the past and honoring the arts. Many of these museums boast permanent exhibits that serve as enticements to tourists and locals alike who wish to explore the bygone days and remarkable talents of one of the South’s most celebrated cities. From the natural history that shaped the land to the cultural history that shaped its people, Atlanta’s museums offer a leisurely, enlightening and delightful walk through time.
High Museum Of Art
1280 Peachtree St. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30309
Among the nation’s most distinguished museums, the High regularly plays host to travelling exhibits featuring the works of such renowned artists as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and more. Permanent exhibits at the High include photography that highlights poignant moments in America’s history alongside imaginatively captured flashes of everyday life; extensive collections of African art, American art, European art, modern and contemporary art; and an impressive display of decorative arts and design. As the first general museum in North America to have a full-time folk art curator, the High Museum of Art’s folk art collection is arguably the most impressive permanent exhibit. It serves as a clear tribute to the original works of Southern artists including Nellie Mae Rowe, Reverend Howard Finster, Bill Traylor and Thornton Dial, among others.
Atlanta History Center
130 W. Paces Ferry Road N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30305
Representative of a living farm from the 1860s, a 1928 palatial estate known as the Swan House and scenic gardens, the Atlanta History Center is a must-see stop for Atlanta natives and visitors alike. Among the History Center’s permanent exhibits, the Centennial Olympic Games Museum serve to honor 17 exciting days in 1996 that transformed this Southern capital into an internationally recognized city. The exhibit guides visitors through the history of the Olympic Games – from their inception in ancient Greece to Atlanta’s role in the Olympic legacy. Included in the exhibit are audio-visual elements, interactive displays, commemorative artifacts, photos, sculptures, media presentation and more.
The King Center
449 Auburn Ave. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30312
Comprised of exhibits that feature photographs and unique artifacts chronicling the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King and memorabilia honoring the “Mother of the Movement,” Rosa Louise Parks, The King Center also features several unique installments making it one of the most powerful and moving permanent exhibits in the city. Adjacent to the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, visitors of The King Center are welcome to tour the birth home of the civil rights leader and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK was baptized, served as co-pastor until his death and was eulogized during his funeral there in 1968. Guests can also pay their respects for the fallen leader and his bride at their crypt on-site.
Margaret Mitchell House and Museum
990 Peachtree St. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30309
The birthplace of Scarlet O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes and all of the other colorful characters of one of the most beloved and best-selling novels of all time, the Margaret Mitchell House is also home to a museum devoted to the commemoration of “Gone With the Wind.” Filled with everything from the girlhood writings of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Southern author to memorabilia from the famed movie chronicling life in the South before, during and after the Civil War, the Margaret Mitchell House is a storied permanent exhibit in and of itself. Rooms in the 1920’s-era building extol the tale of the former Atlanta Journal reporter-turned-celebrated author, as well as the transformation of the pages of a book to unforgettable images on the silver screen.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
767 Clifton Road N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30307
Fernbank bids adieu to the concept of a stuffy old museum by offering up exhibit hall after exhibit hall of family-friendly displays marking Georgia’s evolution from the time before dinosaurs to now. What will no doubt be a favorite permanent exhibit among half-pint historians, Fernbank NatureQuest® transforms kids into scientists as they investigate nature through hundreds of interactive displays and activities. NatureQuest is quite simply a super cool hands-on experience that invites visitors to tour a multi-level clubhouse, explore the inner workings of a mighty red oak tree, enter a virtual waterfall to discover what lives behind it, study live animal exhibits and so much more. A word of warning – parents may have a difficult time pulling their miniature museum-goers away.
Kasie Bolling is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.