Atlanta in 50 Objects, an exhibit on display through July 10, takes a time capsule approach to Atlanta’s past. Time capsules, consisting of artifacts thought to be representative of a period of time, involve highly selective choices that attempt to subjectively define a particular place or thing.
When the Atlanta History Center staff organized this exhibit with a “magic number” of 50 city-defining pieces they decided that Atlantans themselves, through online platforms such as Facebook as well as old-fashioned suggestion boxes, should provide the basis for an original list. Whittling down about 300 possibilities to 50 objects, History Center reps were pleased with broad participation in the public exhibit, an unorthodox, de-mocratic approach not usually taken by fine museums.
The artifacts on display somehow convey Atlanta in 50 objects as the exhibit title promises. Reflecting a thoughtful time capsule, the selection is random yet comprehensive. Pieces vary wildly in size from an archaeo-logical Native American small scraper to a big old Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech. There are objects from the city past relating to railroads, the Civil War, political and civic leaders, architecture and hip-hop.
The most striking piece to me personally is a local Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC) placard, pictured above, from April 1968 that mourners carried at the MLK Jr. Atlanta funeral procession. It makes me think of my classmates 48 years ago. We seniors at St. Pius X High School, integrated in 1967-68, and were shocked at the assassination of a true hero whose family brought him back for burial in Atlanta.
Dr. Paul Hudson, a historian at Perimeter College at Georgia State University, writes columns for Home-town News.