Thursday, June 9, 2016

Focus on 5 from "Atlanta in 50 Objects"

"We want to be a community-driven organization that responds to our audience—indeed, we hope to appeal to a wider and more diverse audience by being inclusive of multiple viewpoints," said Atlanta History Center Executive Vice President Michael Rose

That's exactly how Atlanta in 50 Objects came to fruition. It represents the expertise of Atlanta historians at the Center and suggestions from Atlanta's citizens, at the request of the Center. Nominations were accepted via Facebook, other platforms and an onsite suggestion box. Hundreds of Atlantans responded!

The 50 objects selected to represent the history of Atlanta range in predating our founding in 1837 to showcasing objects that will take us far into an exciting future. However, Atlanta in 50 Objects features more than objects...this collection of treasures includes artifacts, people, events and even ideas. 

I've been a member of the Atlanta History Center for a number years and this exhibition is one that resonates with reasons I love this city. Our history is rich and our future bright, a story extremely well-told in Atlanta in 50 Objects.

I'm going to discuss only five objects in this writing and encourage you to visit the Atlanta History Center to discover the others...I believe you'll be as fascinated as I was, and that that you'll find some delightful surprises.

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Portman Buildings
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Portman Buildings

My first Atlanta experience was seeing her star-soaked glistening skyline. I was driving in from the north for an evening on the town. Mesmerized by her skyline, I knew then and there that I wanted to live in this vibrant city. Meeting her citizens soon thereafter cinched it. It would not be much longer after that first visit that I would make Atlanta home. That was in 1987. 

One of the first names I learned in Atlanta was that of architect-developer John Portman. Anyone who has visited downtown Atlanta has experienced the brilliance of John Portman, from the sparkling 72-story glass cylinder—the Westin Peachtree Plaza—the tallest hotel in the world at the time it was built, to the magnificent SunTrust Plaza at the northern tip of the downtown area. Atlanta's skyline will for countless generations carry Portman's artistic expression, as will the skylines in dozens of other cities throughout the world.

The above pictured object in the exhibition highlights Portman building in downtown Atlanta. I've not yet been, but hear good things about the latest Portman project, the downtown restaurant JP Atlanta.

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Portman Buildings
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Portman Buildings

As magnificent as Portman's other works are, I have over the years remained particularly fond of the Hyatt, and more specifically of Polaris, Atlanta's first revolving restaurant, now (after been closed for a few years) renovated and reopened as a bar and lounge, it's a popular destination for craft cocktails, delicious bites and stunning vistas of Atlanta's skyline.

The Hyatt was constructed 20 years before I moved here. When it opened in 1967, it was the tallest building in Atlanta! Today it's practically dwarfed by Atlanta's newest skyscrapers, but none possess the fascination of the "blue bubble", an experience that Jim Morrison likened to flying in "Victorian Rocket Ships".

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | 1985 Exposition
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | 1985 Exposition

1895 was a busy year in history! In Atlanta it was especially so, particularly during the 1895 International and Cotton States Exposition, hosted for 100 days in Piedmont Park.

The vast majority of the buildings constructed for the Exposition were built as temporary structures, but some of the large stone planters and steps remain, although many who walk those steps wouldn't know that Buffalo Bill Cody also walked the same steps back in 1895! 

One of the then-modern features that fascinates me most is that the Exposition was opened remotely by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, when he flipped an electric switch in Massachusetts! I can just imagine the look of marvel on attendees' faces that day.

The Exposition featured then-modern technology, including an early version of the motion picture—which few actually experienced because the building wasn't air-conditioned. And there was a "Phoenix Wheel"—instead of a Ferris Wheel, either because there wasn't the money for royalties or they wanted to build their own...I've read and heard various versions of that story.

There was a building dedicated specifically to featuring the accomplishments of women and another featuring the accomplishments of African Americans. And the Liberty Bell itself was on display! To say there was a lot for the more than 800,000 visitors to experience would be an understatement.

One fun way to learn more about the Exposition—in addition to so much I've learned at the Atlanta History Center—is to go on a Piedmont Park Historic Tour, in Piedmont Park.

That Exposition, considered by some not wholly successful and by others a venture that breathed new life into Atlanta, is fascinating no matter how you look at it. I'm  continually learning more about it and its benefits to our city.

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | MLK's Nobel Speech
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | MLK's Nobel Speech

Two Georgians have won the Nobel Peace Prize. One was a U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and one was modern Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The object representing MLK, Jr.'s prestigious prize is his hand-written acceptance speech. It's a magnificent  document, one that when you read it you hear his voice in your head. The speech is nearly a full 20 pages in length and I encourage you to read it when you visit. Recognized for his campaign for nonviolent social change, there's a lot in this document that I believe we can all learn from.

A sign of the times, the announcement of King's winning the Nobel Peace Prize was on October 14, 1964, but it wasn't until January 27, 1965 (which happens to be the day I was born) that a celebration was given in his honor of winning the Prize. 

There were some who were not wholly thrilled about his winning, but a small group of Atlantans, including Atlanta Constitution editor and publisher Ralph McGill, Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, Morehouse President Benjamin E. Mays, and Archbishop Paul Hallinan came together to organize the honorary dinner for Dr. King.

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Ramblin' Wreck
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Ramblin' Wreck

If you attended Georgia Institute of Technology or know someone who attended or is attending Georgia Tech, or if you've spent even a little time in Atlanta, you'd have known the answer on March 4, 2013, to the Jeopardy! clue—a Final Jeopardy round—"One of its mascots is a restored 1930 sport coupe that's been in use at the school since 1961." 

The question to that clue—which none of the contestants got right, evidently none of them from Georgia—was, "What is the Ramblin' Wreck." Georgia Tech is world renowned for the caliber of professional it produces, the scientific research it fosters and the fierceness of its college football fans...of course Ramblin' Wreck is one of the 50 objects that defines Atlanta's history!

Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Michonne's Katana
Atlanta in 50 Objects | Atlanta History Center | Michonne's Katana

I'd heard of The Walking Dead and quickly became aware of its intense following. I love science-fiction and a good apocalypse flick, but I did not anticipate my own immediate addition to watching The Walking Dead...I turned as quickly as someone bitten by a Walker. 

And there was nothing subtle about my addiction to the show. I would binge, my appetite for more was relentless and I tirelessly sought out time to devour as many episodes as I could. 

Also, being the good tourist that I am, I went sought out real-life zombie experiences and went on Atlanta Movie Tours' Big Zombie Tour (twice!) and Big Zombie Tour 2 (when I got locked up with Daryl). They've recently announced their Big Zombie Tour 3, which  I hope to experience sometime soon.

In case you didn't know, The Walking Dead, filmed here in Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, is the #1 rated cable television drama...EVER! Georgia is now #3 in television and movie production in the United States and #5 in the world! 

On that note, when you're visiting the Atlanta History Center, check out their Swan House Capitol Tour...several films in The Hunger Games franchise include scenes shot in the 1928 Swan House!

See, I got carried away talking about zombie and almost forgot the object! The object pictured above is Michonne's Katana, one she wields with precision, intensity and a ruthless drive to survive the zombie apocalypse. Michonne is one of my favorite characters on the show. She's quiet, introspective and determined, and she's kicking zombie butt all over Atlanta! I love the Atlanta History Center's choice of object to represent The Walking Dead.

So, there you have it...five of the 50 objects that quite magnificently represent Atlanta history. Do make time to see Atlanta in 50 Objects at the Atlanta History Center, and don't wait until it closes at the end of'll very likely want to see it more than once, just as I have.

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