Barbecue Nation

Temporary Exhibition

Open through September 29, 2019

Barbecue Nation

Barbecue is a delicious food beloved by Americans, but there is much more to it than that. Its story is deliciously complicated, contested, and alluring. It’s a story that tells us a lot about us.

Barbecue Nation opens at the Atlanta History Center on May 5, 2018, in celebration of National Barbecue Month. The exhibition explores how barbecue has come to claim an enduring place at the American table, and how it connects us to cultures around the world, in addition to traditions, history, and the future.

The exhibition includes a wide array of artifacts, images, and oral histories from restaurants, festivals, community gatherings, and archives and museums from across the country.

Barbecue Nation includes historic photos and '50s and '60s advertising images (including an ad for the astonishing-in-retrospect Armour's Ribs in a Can), and features cookbooks, postcards, menus, place settings, and other artifacts from iconic barbecue joints.

Vintage grills demonstrate the evolution of backyard cooking from trench to brick pit to mobile cooker. Among them: a 1948 Char-Broil Wheelbarrow Picnic Cooker, a 1965 Weber kettle, and a Japanese kamado brought home by a U.S. serviceman in the 1970s (Big Green Egg cites “ancient cookers” from China and Japan in this style as a design inspiration). Also on view is President Dwight D. Eisenhower's GE PartioCart, a high-end, dual-fuel cooker trimmed in turquoise that he fired up at his retirement home in Palm Springs, California. A more contemporary eye-catcher is the 13-foot-long “Space Shuttle BBQ Pit” created by Houston-based Gator Pit of Texas.

On another presidential note, Barbecue Nation also tells the story of the 1909 banquet that Atlanta threw for president-elect William Howard Taft in which the main course waswait for itbarbecued possum.

Barbecue Nation continues through September 29, 2019, and is accompanied by a schedule of special programs, including an opening celebration on May 5, 2018; a screening of the Southern Foodways Alliance film Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ with a barbecue panel discussion on May 23, 2018; cooking demonstrations and a talk by author-chef Michael W. Twitty on African and African-American food traditions in Southern barbecue, as part of the free Juneteenth event on June 16-17, 2018; and Hogtoberfest, a “whole hog” barbecue dinner, on October 5, 2018.

Upcoming Events    

Barbecue Nation Opening Day Celebration
May 5, 2018

Kick off national barbecue month with the opening of our newest exhibition, Barbecue Nation.  Opening day highlights include a keynote talk by renowned pit master Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, and Erika Council of the Southern Soufflé blog preparing desserts and sides in the Smith Family Farm kitchen. Enjoy demonstrations of meat preservation techniques from 1860 and 2018 at the Smith Family Farm Smokehouse.  Listen to music by Bluegrass Flashmob before trying crafts and hands-on activities including Make Your Own Spice Rub, food-related scavenger hunts and more.

Southern Foodways Alliance Film Screening
May 23, 2018

Atlanta History Center is proud to partner with Southern Foodways Alliance to explore the evolving story of barbecue. SFA will screen their latest short film about Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ. Afterward, a panel of Georgia pitmasters, moderated by The Bitter Southerners’ Chuck Reece, will discuss barbecue in all forms. Delicious bites from featured pitmasters will follow.

Guests also enjoy access to Barbecue Nation exhibition

Tickets are $20 for general public and $15 for members. Each ticket includes small barbecue bites and local brews.

June 16-17, 2018

This free two-day family program focuses on the appreciation and commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Guests explore the themes of freedom and family history through activities, immersive museum theatre performances and crafts.

In conjunction with the exhibition Barbecue Nation, a special highlight this year includes cooking demonstrations and a talk by author-chef Michael W. Twitty on African and African American food traditions in Southern barbecue.

Fall Folklife Festival
September 22, 2018

October 5, 2018

Barbecue & Blues
March 15, 2019

Party with the Past
April 17, 2019

See Everything!