“Museum” is no longer synonymous with static objects in glass cases. An endless sea of technology is creating new ways to engage visitors and pushing attractions to reinvent themselves. Using technology, interaction and emotional response, Atlanta’s attractions are doing just that. Using technology, low-tech interactivity and synesthesia (engaging multiple senses at once), Atlanta’s attractions are transforming traditional sightseeing into personal experiences.
Center for Civil and Human Rights. Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe designed the civil rights exhibit at the stunning new Center for Civil and Human Rights. It’s no wonder, then, that visitors feel transported after exploring the gallery, which examines the civil rights Movement from the creation of Jim Crow laws through to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Probably most jarring in this consistently multisensorial exhibit is the counter sit-in re-creation. At this 1950s-style counter, up to five visitors can sit with palms flat on the surface, headphones on and eyes closed. A timer keeps count as voices yell threats in surround sound. Suddenly, your stool shakes. A breathy, male voice whispers through gritted teeth in your ear—you feel his breath on your neck. Reading about counter sit-ins could never impact you in the way this minute-and-a-half simulation does.
World of Coca-Cola. Leave it to the world’s best-known soda brand to tell its incredible story in such a dynamic way. You’ll find multisensory experiences, like a 4-D theater, around each corner of this high-tech attraction but the Vault of the Secret Formula is the showstopper. This ode to the secret recipe combines sights of a shadowy man with whispering voices and interactive games to make visitors feel like they’re part of the mystery.
College Football Hall of Fame. The new attraction sprawls unabashedly on almost 100,000 prime square feet in Atlanta’s downtown tourism district. Approach the museum’s entrance and you’ll see an ingress tunnel lined with LED panels on which football players are actively playing the game. Step inside and you’ll receive a lanyard-strung pass with a high-tech secret. Chips inside these passes collect information about you and your college team, transforming the hall into your own college football shrine. The lanyard beams this information to each exhibit you pass, tailoring school colors, fight songs, stats and more to align with your alma mater. Even the College Hall of Fame is a high-tech dream with rotating LED screens that display inductee photos, background, interviews and more. Sorry traditionalists, no busts and plaques here.
Atlanta Movie Tours. “This is where the car hit me,” she says to a busload of wide-eyed tourists. The resemblance between this Atlanta Movie Tours docent and “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell is striking (no pun intended). “Impersonating” doesn’t adequately capture what “Margaret” does—it’s as if she becomes Mitchell, capturing the former journalist’s notorious chutzpah and wit with every retort. And it works. You speak to her as if she were Mitchell, asking about her life, searching for insight, hoping to get a further glimpse into her mind. Without missing a beat, “Margaret” provides accurate and detailed answers to any Mitchell question imaginable.
Atlanta History Center. Walk through the large building that houses Atlanta History Center’s permanent and temporary exhibits to get to the center’s expansive, wooded backyard. Down another winding pass and over a bridge, you’ll encounter two historic homes, one from the 1840s and the other from 1928. This is where Atlanta History Center sets itself apart. As you walk through the Smith Family Farm or Swan House, you’ll encounter what the center calls its living history interpreters. These history center employees are actors who embody historically-accurate characters. For instance, walking through the Swan House you might encounter the maid sitting in the kitchen thumbing through a Sears catalogue printed in 1931.