Portrait of a Movement

National Civil Rights Museum seeks artifacts for anniversary exhibit.

| March 24, 2011
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There are likely hundreds of old photographs from the civil rights era gathering dust in Memphis attics, but the National Civil Rights Museum is asking residents to dig out those pictures for an upcoming exhibit.

"Portrait of a Movement: Building a Museum," part two of a three-part 20th-anniversary exhibition series, will feature artifacts from the Lorraine Motel in the days before the fatal shooting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The exhibit will also display posters, documents, and memorabilia from the civil rights era. The exhibit opens June 15th and runs through August 14th.

"We want to provide people a chance to look back while we encourage them to look forward," said Barbara Andrews, director of education and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum.

So far, Andrews said the museum has received photos of individuals at the Lorraine Motel, old receipt books, menu cards from its cafe, and documents of its history and purchase. They're still seeking donations and encourage people to contribute anything they think may benefit the exhibit.

Marty Spence, the daughter of Memphis Press-Scimitar reporter John W. Spence, donated a poster created to promote King's Poor People's Campaign of 1968.

Spence's father worked with King for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1968 and marched during the sanitation workers' strike.

The black-and-white poster features pictures of people of different races surrounding an image of King. "Southern Christian Leadership Conference," a prominent organization involved with the civil rights movement, is printed on the bottom of the poster.

"They want the museum to be known for the civil rights movement and not just known as the place of Dr. King's death," Spence said. "I hope the exhibit will help the museum continue to grow and be a great symbol for people."

The "Connecting People and History" series launched in January with the exhibit "Fine Art from the Collection," which featured vintage artwork from the museum's archive.

The National Civil Rights Museum is currently raising money for planned renovations to make the museum more user-friendly.

Andrews said images of the proposed upgrades will also be presented during the exhibit. The museum currently has a $40 million capital campaign, of which approximately $26 million will go toward the renovation and the remainder toward an endowment campaign.

Andrews encourages the community to visit the upcoming "Portrait of a Movement" exhibit to learn more about King's fight for equal rights.

Said Andrews: "[This exhibit offers] an opportunity for us to celebrate the birth of this organization and the accomplishments we have made, not just for the sake of the museum but for our community and around the world."

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