Sunday, October 31, 2010

Atlanta History Center: A Tourist Goldmine

Centennial Olympic Games Museum
Centennial Olympic Games Museum
at the Atlanta History Center
Visiting the Atlanta History Center was interesting, educational and, most of all, exciting. As a tourist in Atlanta (even though I’m a resident, I love playing tourist), the Center has been the best surprise yet—a tourist's goldmine!
The day I visited, I was on the 33-acre campus for more than four hours and barely made a dent in available offerings. I took two tours: the Swan House, which I blogged about recently, and the Tullie Smith Farm. I had a quick snack at the onsite café and was then off to a couple of museums in the Center, my favorite being the Centennial Olympic Games Museum. I also walked through several historic gardens.
Before I get to the details of the visit, let me tell you what admission gives you. On a single ticket, you will have access to:
Atlanta History Center
Atlanta History Center
I arrived in time to join an 11:00 a.m. tour of the Swan House. The ticket agent also offered me a pass for a 1:00 p.m. tour of the Tullie Smith Farm, which I also accepted out of curiosity.
Tour passes are "required" for the timed tours. One of the really nice things about this place is that you don't have to idly wait until your tour starts. There's lots to see and do before any given tour start time.
I had about half an hour before the start time of the Swan House tour so I headed to the Centennial Olympic Games Museum. I lived in Atlanta in 1996 when the city hosted the Olympics, so I entered the gallery with a strong interest and a slight sense of nostalgia.
The exhibit is as bright and festive as are the Olympic Games themselves. My sense of nostalgia quickly faded as I was transported nearly 15 years into the past, immersed in the excitement of an event that transformed the City of Atlanta, I believe for the better.
The museum contains "the world's largest collection of Olympic Torches." The torches, and relative Olympic coins, are displayed chronologically, from the resurrection of the Olympic Games in 1896 to the 1996 Centennial Olympics, including pylons noting cancelled Olympic Games.
I was so caught up in the Centennial Olympic Games exhibit that I almost missed the start of the Swan House tour. I made a brisk five-minute walk to the house. More on this tour, and the saucy Linda, is in my blog post "Swan House: Where Splendor Migrated."
Cherry Sims Asian-American Garden
Asian-American Garden
After exploring the gardens around the Swan House, I had time to visit the Cherry Sims Asian-American Garden. Quite lush, even for autumn, the garden features Asian plants and their American counterparts, with statuary and a gazebo—a unique approach to multi-cultural botany, I thought.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Tullie Smith Farm. Although seeing on arrival that it's a farmhouse and some barns, I suspected there might be more to it since it is featured in the Center's brochure.
I arrived a little early and explored the Farm's gardens which included vegetable, fruit, flower and herb variations. On the tour, we learned how some of these gardens were maintained in the early- to mid-1800s, including "sweeping."
Our tour guide greeted us at precisely 1:00 p.m. with an invitation us to join her on the porch of the Tullie Smith House. The tour guide's Southern accent was, surprisingly, a Scottish brogue. A delightful and charming lady, presumably in her 70s, she was dressed in period costume.
Tullie Smith House
Tullie Smith House
The dry-humored, highly entertaining "young lady" toured us through the living room, bedroom, and weaving room in the main house and then, in a separate building, the kitchen. Kitchens were often located in detached buildings at the time to minimize fire hazard to the main house.
Afterward, I headed back to the main building of the Center for a little lunch at the Coca-Cola Café. Between me and lunch was the Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden. The pleasant stroll included an opportunity to explore a comprehensive collection of pre-colonial Georgian plants.
After lunch, I toured the museums and exhibits housed in the main building of the Atlanta History Center. First up was "Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones," chronicling the life of the legendary golfer through an extensive collection of artifacts.
As are many Southerners, I have a more than passing interest in Civil War history. The Center has an abundant collection of artifacts, including cannons, swords and uniforms, that tell the story of the war when 670,000 Americans lost their lives…a most sobering exhibit.
Civil War exhibit
Civil War exhibit
Provided by the Library of Congress, an exhibit titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition" is the most comprehensive exhibit on the sixteenth president of the United States I've ever seen. Its run at the Center comes to an end on Sunday, November 7.
The folk arts exhibit is a spectacular array of Georgian folk culture. The collection includes antique and contemporary artifacts, including colorful quilts, whimsical pottery and intricate saw grass weavings.
One of my favorite exhibits was "Metropolitan Frontiers." The most interactive exhibit in the Center, the vehicles, videos and vernacular signage, in addition to a wide variety of other artifacts, makes for an exciting tour through Atlanta's rich history, 1835-2000. Tracing the city's lineage from Indian settlements to modern skyscrapers is impressively accomplished in one space.
Is my curiosity for Atlanta history satisfied? To say that I'm impressed with the Atlanta History Center would be a gross understatement. I could easily have spent the entire day contentedly exploring. I can hardly wait to return to see what I missed on my first visit.
Touring the Atlanta History Center
Date toured: Friday, October 29, 2010
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults $16.50, Seniors and Students $13, Youths $11 (tickets)
Location: 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, Georgia (map and directions)
Parking: Free onsite parking
Facebook: Atlanta History Center

Civil War exhibit
Civil War exhibit

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Swan House: Where Splendor Migrated

Swan House
Swan House
The Swan House was home to cotton brokerage heirs Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Inman. Today, the Swan House and its picturesque gardens are part of the 33-acre campus of the Atlanta History Center.
The Swan House was a "down-size" move for the Inman's. Seems difficult to believe once you see the 13,000 square-foot custom-built home filled with exquisite Italian marble features, hand-carved mantles and one-of-a-kind ceiling embellishments, to name a few of its remarkable features.
The home, completed in 1928, was designed by noted architect Philip Trammell Shutze.
Mr. and Mrs. Inman were avian enthusiasts. Mr. Inman had a strong love for the American Bald Eagle and Mrs. Inman adored the Swan. The name of the house was derived from the prominence of sculpted swans throughout the home, including an iron swan sitting in the transom of the back entry.
The tour of Swan House begins in the portico. Standing on a cobblestone drive next to four gigantic columns, our tour guide, Linda, welcomed us to Swan House. As the tour progressed I came to realize that Linda is very well-spoken, quite knowledgeable and even a little saucy, in a very good way, of course.
Swan House (front)
Swan House (front)
Once again, I was compelled to obey the "no photography" inside the house rule (or "favor"as the polite and charismatic Linda defined it). On this particular instance, the rule is to the benefit of visitors. The home is filled with refined adornments and the tour itself is an enlightening learning experience. Instead of snap, snap, snap, I was able to bathe in the elegance of the 1920s architecture and décor.
Upon entering the home, which recently received a $5.4 million renovation (a fact that the unyielding Linda would remind us of on numerous occasions), the first sight—the floor—is indeed impressive.
The foyer floor configuration is a five-point star, circled with a band of cresting waves, surrounded by a spirograph-like design. The floor is made of high-contrast, eye-catching pure black and white Italian marble and served as the inspiration for the logo of the Atlanta History Center. The crystal chandelier in the foyer is made of several swan-shaped swoops.
The same black and white marble in the foyer is used throughout the home's main level and it is rumored that one of Mrs. Inman's eccentricities was a rule to not walk on the black marble, only on the white, to avoid creating scuff marks. More than 80 years later, the floor is as pristine as the first day it was polished…maybe she had something there or maybe it was the $5.4 million rennovation.
Swan House (back)
Swan House (back)
The home is filled with the original Inman Family furnishings including beds, tables, lamps, chandeliers, carpets…everything! The only exception is Mr. Inman's bedroom furniture. Some of the wallpapers and carpets have been reproduced, but in the exact designs that were original to the home.
As lavish as the home is—from dining room to parlor, bedrooms to powder rooms—the house was built for comfort. The many modern features, including a private booth for telephone calls, are "disguised" so as to preserve the elegance of the period.
Linda, our tour guide, turned out to be something of an etymologist. Throughout the tour, she shared tidbits of how features in the home relate to the origin of words and phrases, such as "mind your own beeswax." Learn about this one on the tour when the fireplace screen in Mrs. Inman's bedroom is brought into discussion.
The stairwell leading from the grand foyer to the second floor is said to have been the pride and joy of Mrs. Inman, and a piece to be proud of it is. As in many other features of the house, the stairwell is a "modern marvel," especially for 1928. It stands free of support. It was built with poured concrete and steel reinforcements. The bannister is made of elegantly carved wood, stained dark.
At the end of the tour, Linda invited us to view an extensive gallery of architect Shutze's decorative arts collection, minding us to take note of the cutaway of Shutze's library and the boars head soup terrines. This exhibit is self-guided and is located in the terrace level of the house.
Swan House garden
Swan House garden
When visiting the home, be sure to allow time to walk the grounds to see the gardens, its many sculptures and down the front lawn so you can take in the iconic full view of the Swan House. It's definitely worth firing a quad.
Every tour is a unique experience, not only in the idiosyncrasies of how the tour guide tells a story, but through the tourists themselves, whether visitors or locals. In this particular group, shining as bright as Mrs. Inman’s swan chandelier, were an appreciation for elegance and a strong pride of the South. They were a chatty bunch, too, but Linda, the consummate professional she is, answered every question.
I did not have time to visit the Swan Coach House. The beautiful structure, once served as the garage (a three-car garage, impressive at the time…impressive now, actually) and the servants' quarters. Today, Swan Coach House is a gallery, a gift shop and a restaurant. On my next visit, I will arrive hungry to make certain that Swan Coach House is at the top of my list of destinations on this 33-acre complex.
One last note, the Atlanta History Center, which includes the Swan House, is the best ticket in town. It's an inclusive admission to the Center with access to:

  • Swan House,
  • Tullie Smith Farm,
  • Atlanta History Museum,
  • various gardens,
  • Kenan Research Center,
  • the museum shop, and
  • a learning center for kids.
You can buy a dual ticket for only a few dollars more and tour the Margaret Mitchell House, also managed by the Atlanta History Center.
Will I be flying back to the splendor of Swan House any time soon? I'm certain I'll migrate there more than once a year. With so much to see and explore, regularly changing exhibits, and so much history to learn, it promises to always be a fun and enlightening experience.
Touring the Swan House (part of the Atlanta History Center)
Date toured: Friday, October 29, 2010
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Sunday 1:00 p.m.-4 p.m.

Cost: Adults $16.50, Seniors and Students $13, Youths $11 (tickets)
Location: 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, Georgia (map and directions
Parking: Free onsite parking


Swan House portico
Swan House portico

Monday, October 25, 2010

Margaret Mitchell House: Went With a Breeze

Margaret Mitchell House & Museum
Margaret Mitchell House
The Margaret Mitchell House & Museum should be in the "must-see" category for Atlanta tourists, but I believe there should be substantially "more-to-see" before it receives that status. I personally expected and hoped for more. I indeed am glad I saw "the birthplace of Gone With the Wind," but the remainder of the museum space and exhibits barely constitute a breeze.
I certainly was appreciative for the free parking, directly behind the house. Or at least I thought it was the back of the house. The visitor entrance to the house is not well marked, but I assumed it was near the parking lot. I fortunately found it without walking around to the Peachtree Street side of the house just to be told to go to the back.
As I learned later, the house was originally built to face Peachtree Street. Years later it was moved 10 feet back and placed on a basement foundation, which became the first floor and the front of the house. The building received a Crescent Street address following the move.
Margaret Mitchell portrait
Margaret Mitchell
The entrance/ticket desks to the house and museum are located in the gift shop (which I'm finding is more common a practice than I once thought). I was promptly and kindly greeted and provided a ticket and tour start time details.
I wasn't sure what to expect for the tour. I had assumed there was a self-guided option given there’s no mention of tour times on the website. Fortunately, I'd arrived at approximately 10:45 a.m. I'd originally planned to arrive at 10:00 a.m. when the house opens on Saturdays. The first tour is not until 11:00 a.m.
When the tour began, we were welcomed by our tour guide, Claire. A pleasant, enthusiastic young lady, I couldn’t figure out if she'd forgot to set her alarm clock and forewent the hair dryer and makeup mirror to be on time or if she was styling the latest product from Bed Head. Either way, she knows the house and was quite entertaining.
Claire gave us a brief background on the house, including the highly publicized two fires that almost destroyed the house. What she didn't tell us was that the tour would never leave the basement level.
In the museum are numerous, although modest, displays that tell who Margaret Mitchell was; how the book was published; and about the philanthropic work Margaret supported later in life.
Gone With the Wind exhibit of articles
Gone With the Wind Articles
The one display that grabbed my attention was the wall with magazine covers and other advertisements that covered the publishing of Gone With the Wind. This section also includes a cut sheet of other famous actresses who auditioned for the part of Scarlett O'Hara, the book’s main character. A few of the 32 actresses vying for the roll included Bette Davis, who had just finished filming Jezebel; Tallulah Bankhead; Susan Hayward and Lana Turner.
The museum also includes a few original artifacts including the actual desk that Margaret Mitchell used when she worked for the Atlanta Journal. Its legs had to be cut off to accommodate Ms. Mitchell's petite stature. She was a mere 4'11", actually two inches taller than my grandmother!
A larger collection of Margaret Mitchell artifacts are in a Gone With the Wind exhibit at the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library, Central Branch, which I'll write about in the not-too-distant future.
Next, we were on to the apartment where Margaret Mitchell lived while writing most of Gone With the Wind, a 10-year project. The apartment is a modest four rooms, which Margaret called "The Dump." It's on the 10th Street and Crescent Avenue corner on the basement (first floor) level.
The first room we toured was the living room, which is where Margaret did her writing next to a window facing Crescent Avenue. The artifacts and furniture in the apartment are not original to when Margaret lived there, save the wooden floors, but the style of the furnishing are true to the time.
The next room was the bedroom, which is modest in size. The bed Margaret slept in was more than ample for her size, but not so much for her husband John Marsh, but they made do.
The Kitchen features a gas stove and the museum organizers have added a Coca-Cola bottle opener to give it a true Atlanta flare (it's presumed that Margaret had a Coca-Cola or two during her time in the house). The bathroom also is small.
Margaret Mitchell's desk when working at Atlanta Journal
Margaret's Desk
The tour of the apartment let us out back in the museum where we were invited to take our time further exploring. I had actually wondered during the tour of the museum why there were so many placards when we weren't given the time to read them. Turns out we would have plenty of time.
As I was leaving, I asked the ticket agent if Margaret ever hosted book signings after the book and movie were released. He told me that she wasn't fond of doing them. It's said that she actually never expected Gone With the Wind to be published.
I also asked about the rest of the house. He invited me to have a look around the second floor, which he said was empty except for a portrait of Margaret Mitchell, commissioned by Trust Company Bank, which was a treat to see.
Margaret Mitchell's life was all too short. Born in 1900, she died in 1949 of injuries sustained when she was hit by a taxi cab only a few blocks from the Margaret Mitchell House.
Also nearby, Clarke Gable (Rhett Butler) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara) stayed at the Georgian Terrace Hotel during the filming of Gone With the Wind. The movie debuted in 1939 (not at the Fox Theatre as some believe) at the Lowe's Grand Theatre, which stood where the 52-story, pink granite Georgia-Pacific Tower stands today.
The Margaret Mitchell House is managed by the Atlanta History Center and visitors may purchase a discount dual ticket for both. Keep in mind that the ticket for the second site must be used within nine days. The Atlanta History Center is on Peachtree Road just a short five miles from the Margaret Mitchell House.
Do I have a desire to see Margaret's apartment again? Well, Prissy didn't "know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" and until the museum expands or its management "learns somethin' 'bout excitin' museum space," I think I'll wait.
I do want to see the other historic houses and gardens managed by the Atlanta History Center, but the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum’s public space is modest enough that once was enough…for now.
Touring the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum
Date toured: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Adults $13, Seniors/Students $10 , Children $8.50
Location: 990 Peachtree Street (enter at Crescent Avenue) (directions and map)
Parking: corner of 10-th Street and Crescent Avenue (behind the house)
Facebook: Margaret Mitchell House & Museum

Margaret Mitchell House exhibit

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

World of Coca-Cola: All You Can Drink

World of Coca-Cola
World of Coca-Cola
The World of Coca-Cola is aptly named. As the world's most popular soft drink, the museum shares the how, when and where Coke arrived on the global scene and its place in today's society. It also delves into the "why" Coke is such a popular beverage and share a little about Coke's worldwide community outreach.

Welcoming visitors and locals alike is a bronze statue of John S. Pemberton—the creator of the original Coca-Cola formula. Relocated in 2007, the world of Coca-Cola is nestled between Georgia Aquarium and Imagine It! at the southern tip of Pemberton Place, a 20-acre park in downtown Atlanta created by The Coca-Cola Company.
Arriving guests are invited to join together in the Main Lobby for a brief introduction to what promises to be an exciting adventure. While waiting, briefly, for entry into the museum, a photographer is on hand to create souvenir photos (one of many opportunities during a visit) and a docent begins telling the story of Coca-Cola, noting artifacts in the Lobby.
Coca-Cola Loft
Coca-Cola Loft
In the Coca-Cola Loft, the next stop on the tour, visitors are given a brief introduction as to what to expect on the day's journey. A docent shares information about the Loft's collection of artifacts—some of Coke's oldest and most valuable. And the room is filled with more Coca-Cola signs than there are billboards in Atlanta, or so it seems.
I was already liking that entry into the museum is timed, thus allowing for a more leisurely, pleasant exploration experience.
The Happiness Factory Theater is a seated film presentation (the kids are going to love this one) that explores the "magic" that goes into every bottle of Coke. Highly entertaining and a little goofy, I enjoyed that the voices in this animated short included accents from around the world.
Following the brief film, we were granted access into the two-story heart of the World of Coca-Cola called "The Hub." From there we would be on our own to explore the remainder of the museum.
One of the best recognized icons in Coca-Cola advertising is the Coca-Cola Polar Bear. Well, guess who was in The Hub for photo ops? That’s right! The Coca-Cola Polar Bear, and not the stuffed teddy bear size…I’m talking about a seven-foot tower of plush, white, furry fun. The kids loved him, especially the younger teens. At one point there was even a friendly cat-and-mouse chase between the Bear and a couple of the kids.
On the north side of The Hub is the Coca-Cola Connections exhibit. It consists of several interactive stations that let one explore the global connections that Coke creates.
The "Bottle Works" exhibit is a real bottling center! The slowest (for demonstration purposes) bottling system in the world we were told. Seeing the automation of the bottling process has a pretty high cool-factor and there are ample plaques to explain what one is seeing along the viewing path.
Coca-Cola delivery truck from Argentina
Delivery Truck,
Milestones of Refreshment is an exhibit of pure history and a great opportunity to see the roots of Coke. Coca-Cola started with a single formula and today the company produces more than 450 brands in approximately 200 countries around the world.
The Hub and the "balconies" of the second level are lined with giant Coke bottles that were decorated and presented to The Coca-Cola Company by countries around the world for the 1996 Olympic Games hosted in Atlanta. There's also a great view of Coca-Cola headquarters from the second level's northwest corner.
Coca-Cola has supported the Olympic Games for more than 80 years.
"In Search of the Secret Formula," a 4-D theater experience, was a bit more than I personally bargained for. I've been in 4-D theaters before, and I love a good rollercoaster ride, but this one is not for the faint of heart. The "ride" itself is turbulent (really!), but the story being told is indeed entertaining.
The Pop Culture Gallery was one of my favorites. Modest in size, this gallery contains Coke art of a more modern take, including pop art and folk art, to name a couple.
Coke pop art by Howard Fenster
Coke Pop Art,
Howard Fenster
The Perfect Pauses Theater is, in contrast to the 4-D theater, a relaxing look at Coca-Cola advertising over the decades. Here I got to see Coke commercials that I remember seeing as a child, stirring my sense of nostalgia.
There are also a lot of commercials that I never would have seen otherwise, commercials from other times and places around the world. I spent the greatest amount of time here than any other single exhibit.
The capstone event of the tour (calling it a gallery would be too much of an understatement) is "Taste It!" In the Taste It! room, visitors have the opportunity to actually taste more than 60 different Coke products from five continents. And that's not all. There's also a new interactive tasting station, Coca-Cola Freestyle, where guests can make and taste any of 106 personally customized Coke creations.
A very nice touch (I think) before entering the Coca-Cola Store, every visitor is given his or her very own commemorative bottle of Coke. The Coca-Cola Store itself, the museum's gift shop, is pretty amazing. Anything you can imagine that could possibly have a corporate logo on is probably here. It's its own world of discovery for the souvenir collector in all of us.
The "why" of Coca-Cola's global community outreach is clear, in my mind that is. Although we come from many different nations and cultures, we are one people—the human race. Coke understands that.
That a billion people enjoy Coke every day is undoubtedly great for business. The remarkable thing is that there are so few singular experiences that we all have in common, but enjoying Coke is one of them. The Coca-Cola Company, through its globally recognized brand, is quite generous in its efforts to provide education resources and community volunteers on a global scale, which visitors can learn more about at the World of Coca-Cola.
Has my quench for Coca-Cola artifacts and knowledge been satisfied? I want more. I will probably wait until friends or family come to visit, but there is still a lot to see, so I'll definitely return. And I'm really looking forward to what I'm sure will be a year filled with Coca-Cola celebrations for its 125-th anniversary in 2011.
Touring the World of Coca-Cola
Date toured: Monday, October 18, 2010
Hours: Varies. Generally 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., but check their website.

Cost: Adults $15, Seniors $13, Children $10
Location: 121 Baker Street, NW
Parking: 178 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd is World of Coke parking (map and directions) and there are numerous nearly public pay parking lots.
Facebook: World of Coca-Cola

World of Coca-Cola
World of Coca-Cola

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Carter Presidential Museum: A President’s Life

President Jimmy Carter
President Jimmy Carter
I recently met the 39th President of the United States, President Jimmy Carter, at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum. I went to the Carter Presidential Museum with the intent to meet President Carter, who was signing copies of his latest book, "White House Diary," and of course to acquire a signed copy for my personal collection of autographed books. My second goal was to tour the museum.

Both were met with success…the museum first.
Originally, the Center was an idea for a place where President Carter imagined he could continue waging peace, fighting disease and inspiring hope around the world following his, as he calls it, "involuntary retirement" from service in the White House.
The Carter Center is an impressive complex that includes international meeting spaces for effecting global change; blossoming gardens for reflection on the human condition; a research library brimming with knowledge; and a museum that fully chronicles the life of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President of the United States.
This post covers only the tip of the iceberg of the wonders to be discovered in the museum.
Submarine Exhibit
Submarine Exhibit
The Carter Presidential Museum is a collection of artifacts, films and replicas that chronicle the life of President Carter. And quite frankly, it's a collection that rivals even that of a Smithsonian museum.
I arrived early on the afternoon of the President's book signing to acquire a book in time for the signing and to have enough time to tour the museum and I was greeted by very friendly and helpful museum staff.
The "all-new" museum, different from many other tourist destinations, begins and ends in the (modest) gift shop. The gift shop was buzzing with activity…others seeking a presidential autograph, people curious about the Center, and museum staff working with security and visitors.
The museum had been closed off for book-signing preparations (the line for autographs would later wrap all the way through the massive museum). My strongly voiced intent on visiting the museum this day translated into convincing one of the museum managers to grant me access. He escorted me past security to the entrance of the museum (I was very impressed with this level of customer service!).
The museum is organized chronologically, noting President Carter's:

  • birth and early life,
  • Naval career,
  • entry into politics,
  • his four-year term in the White House, and
  • his and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter's global human rights efforts.
The early years exhibits include photographs of his family and historical accounts of Carter's earliest influences, specifically the conflicting personalities of his parents. It also imparts the love and support they provided during his early development.
Chronicling Carter's first career choice, that of a Naval officer serving on a submarine, his Naval years exhibit includes a life-size, somewhat abstract display of the innards of a submarine and it's periscope components. It also includes a dress whites uniform worn by Carter. After Carter's presidency the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23), a US Navy submarine, was commissioned.
Carter Presidential Museum
Carter Museum
To-be-president Carter entered politics following the death of his father, influenced by stories of the difference his father made in the lives of people he knew. The exhibits up to this point in his life, and further, cover Carter's life in great detail.

I’ve enjoyed the historical accounts of presidential campaigns in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but this museum shares an account that covers a scope of detail of a single campaign that the Smithsonian just doesn't have the opportunity to display.
The exhibits covering President Carter's four years in the White House also include artifacts and photographs that tell of U.S. and world events at that time. Of note, the premier of the global cinematic sensation "Star Wars" (a personal favorite) and the most popular television show at the time, "Dallas."
Exciting and unexpected, I happened upon an exact replica of the Oval Office! I'd not reviewed the contents of the museum prior to visiting, so most of what I discovered was unexpected. The Oval Office exhibit was exactly as it was decorated when President Carter was in office, down to the "The Buck Stops Here" desk name plate.
The exhibits noting Carter's term are substantial in diversity of aspect as well as content. They include a sizable rotunda that serves as an opportunity to explore a "day in the life" of the President. Additionally, visitors have a chance to pseudo-explore some of the millions of documents created during the Carter administration.
The final leg of the exhibit, more than a quarter of the museum space, covers the Carter's human rights, philanthropic and charitable endeavors around the world. One particular exhibit allows would-be travelers to "join" the Carter's on a voyage of spreading hope in places desperately needed.
Carter's Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The museum, a grand achievement, tells the story of a man who lives the American Dream, served productively in U.S. Politics, and today continues to give heart and soul in waging peace, fighting disease and inspiring hope.
Meeting President Carter
Meeting President Carter, for a second time, was indeed a remarkable occasion. Any occasion to meet such a distinguished human being, someone who has made a lasting difference, makes for a cherished memory. I first met President Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in November 2002. I found myself equally impressed with him at today’s meeting—his courage and strength continue to shine.
Do I plan to return to the museum? There's so much more to explore, so much more to see than what I had the opportunity to see on this visit, so yes, I will definitely return. I will return to see the museum as well as to see the gardens and the library, which will be another blog post.
What would you hope to see when touring the Carter Presidential Museum?
Touring the Carter Presidential Museum
Date toured: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Cost: Adults $8; Seniors, Military, Students $6; Children (16 and under) Free
Location: 441 Freedom Parkway (map and directions)
Parking: ample FREE parking

Carter Presidential Museum
Carter Presidential Center

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CNN Studio Tour: A Newsworthy Destination

Cable News Network—or what we all know as CNN—brings world news to the entire globe and has done so since 1980. CNN's global headquarters are right here in Atlanta where visitors and locals have the unique opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at how the news is generated, hosted and broadcast—the Inside CNN Studio Tour.

CNN Headquarters Atrium
CNN Headquarters Atrium
Inside CNN tours are offered nearly every day of the year, are approximately one hour in duration and are led by very well trained, enthusiastic tour guides. The tour I went on today was hosted by JR, a studious-looking but charming young man whose impressive knowledge of CNN the company and its eight-story global headquarters made for an interesting sixty minutes (not to be confused with a different television news program).
Tours begin approximately every 10 minutes, which is certainly not the case for most other tours in Atlanta...and an impressive beginning it is. We started our tour on what is the world's largest "freestanding" escalator. That means that the only supports it has are at the bottom and the top of the escalator—no other supports at all! We didn't learn that tidbit of information until later. So, what does an escalator have to do with delivering the news? Nothing really, but it makes for a fun launch of a tour.
At the top of the escalator we found ourselves inside a gigantic 50-foot globe, which represents all the points on the blue-green marble we call our home planet where CNN reports the news to and from.
The first news-related stop on the tour was the Control Room, or rather a simulation of the real CNN control room located in another part of the building. It does however feature live feeds—audio and video—of a CNN News broadcast. JR explained how news directors instruct weather and news anchors, as well as camera operators and video technicians, during a live program and how the various screens in the Control Room are used to produce a program in real-time.
Next, we were off to a mock weather reporting studio where JR described chroma key technology, or more commonly known as green screen technology. He also attempted to demonstrate how wearing clothing as the same color as the background could produce a "headless weatherman." But our particular group was not the laugh-out-loud type. Many in the group did eventually have questions, so it was mildly apparent that they were at least engaged if not humored.
One of the more impressive stops on the tour was the CNN Overlook. JR discussed the various roles of the employees in the highly-populated, busy production and directing studio; who's responsible for prioritization; and, who approves content in the process of news-gathering and news sharing. I did notice that many of the hunters and gathers of the news were young people. Behind-the-scenes evidently has fewer "seasoned" staff members than one might assume. Totally cool...after all, it's about what you know and do well, not so much how long you've known it, right?
CNN Headquarters
CNN Headquarters
We also were treated to views of program preparations for CNN International, HLN News and Views, and CNN en Espanol. We actually passed an anchor woman in the hall from CNN en Espanol who we later saw in the studio practicing for a live broadcast. Kept an eye out for Anderson Cooper, but no such luck.
Also on the tour was a writers and editors studio, densely packed with computers and flat screen monitors. A member of our tour group asked, "How they could have possibly fit that many CRT monitors in the same space?" That was the one answer that eluded our tour guide.
Like many other offices, most people were busy at their desks, but we did notice one person who had brought in a few-week-old baby to show her office mates. Unbeknownst to the baby's (presumed) mother, several ladies in the tour group were gushing over the infant. Meanwhile…
Now, what tour of any tourist attraction these days doesn't wrap up in the gift shop? The Inside CNN tour is no exception. I almost darted through the shop refusing to browse, but the life-size stormtrooper caught my eye. So, I actually did end up browsing for a couple of minutes. It's actually quite a nice little gift shop, one that has something for visitors of all ages…and it's considerably more than just t-shirts and branded shot glasses.
Getting to CNN headquarters is relatively easy. It's located very close to Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, all near downtown Atlanta. There are numerous parking options in the area, including a parking lot specifically for CNN visitors.
CNN offers various other tours, too. Some go into a lot more depth and grant access to other CNN studios. Information about the other tours, as well as group rates for all tours, is on CNN's website.
You may have wondered why there are so few photos with this post, particularly the absence of any behind-the-scenes photos. CNN does not allow photography on their Inside CNN Studio Tour and given a recent slap on the wrist, I wasn't going to risk it. They're a pretty powerful outfit, one that I'd like to keep on my good side.
Will I return for another Inside CNN tour? I'd taken a very similar tour of the same building many, many years ago and it's not changed significantly, except for the upgrade of studio equipment and sets. So, I probably will wait until a visiting friend or family member really, really wants to go. I'm glad I went…it's (almost) always cool to know what's going on behind-the-scenes.
Touring CNN
Date toured: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day)
Cost: Adults $13, Senior $12, Student $11, Child $10, Military Free
Parking: numerous pay lots nearby (parking lots)

Location: 190 Marietta Street, NW (map)

CNN Headquarters
CNN Headquarters