Press Release

Atlanta History Center Announces Successful Completion of Capital Campaign

Project Details Reveal Broad Vision for Campus-Wide Enhancements to Improve Visitor Experience

ATLANTA, GA – The Atlanta History Center today announced completion of its $21.1 million Campaign for the Atlanta History Center. The funds from the campaign transform the organization through programmatic and physical changes to enhance the entire visitor experience throughout the Atlanta History Center’s thirty-three-acre campus.

This accomplishment was augmented recently by a $3 million gift from The Goizueta Foundation, officially bringing The Campaign for the Atlanta History Center to completion. This gift is dedicated to the rehabilitation of twenty-two acres of gardens and grounds, which includes six dedicated interpretive public gardens. In recognition of this generous gift - the largest the History Center has received for its historic gardens - and in recognition of her twelve years of service as a trustee (1984-1996), the Board of Trustees is honored to officially name the History Center gardens “The Olga C. de Goizueta Gardens at the Atlanta History Center.”

“This is the largest capital campaign since the organization was founded in 1926, and its success is the result of the participation and collaboration of the staff, Board, and a great many individuals and organizations,” said Lillian Giornelli, campaign co-chair. “We deeply appreciate the major contributions we have received through the generous support of Atlanta’s philanthropic community and donors, members, and many friends of the History Center who believe in the importance of this project and see the vision and possibility for our future.”

Leadership gifts have been received from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, The Goizueta Foundation, the Frances and Beverly DuBose Foundation, Cox Interests: Mrs. Anne Cox Chambers and the James M. Cox Foundation, the Coca-Cola Company and The Home Depot Foundation. In addition to capital campaign funds, $2 million was raised for the History Center’s endowment. Coxe Curry & Associates served as campaign counsel.

“We are grateful to Campaign Co-Chairs Lillian Giornelli and David Lanier, and Campaign Closing Committee Co-Chairs Dean Dubose Smith and Bronson Smith for their leadership of the capital campaign and to the History Center’s Board of Trustees for their continued commitment to this ambitious project,” said Laura Miles, Chair of the Board. “To be embarking on a transformation of the Atlanta History Center that serves as the cornerstone of our strategic vision and enhance our role as an educational and civic institution of the highest caliber is a proud moment for our organization and our city.”

Physical renovations are scheduled to begin July 2014 and include key projects designed to create a more welcoming campus; reshape the History Center’s physical presence; develop a new immersive and engaging exhibition on the history of Atlanta; and increase accessibility by redesigning the entrance and revitalizing the grounds of the thirty-three-acre campus.

“When we began planning for The Campaign for the Atlanta History Center in 2010, the museum world was at a crossroads. The financial crisis combined with dwindling audience attendance and engagement meant museums were seeking to keep core constituencies engaged but strike a balance to adapt to the engagement and expectations of 21st-century visitors or risk irrelevancy,” said Sheffield Hale, President and CEO of the Atlanta History Center. “From the very start of this project, our goal has been to improve nearly every aspect of who we are as a History Center and strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission to connect, and serve, our community by presenting history in a variety of ways that are interesting, inclusive, stimulating, personal, and – most important – relevant.”

These transformative projects, which have been designed by architects W. Grant Moseley and Larry Sweat of MSTSD, Inc., and landscape architect Mack R. Cain of Jacobs Engineering Group, among others, are implemented by a team that includes Jackson McQuigg, Atlanta History Center Vice President of Properties, and C.D. Moody Construction.

Components of Atlanta History Center Renovation:

Enhanced West Paces Ferry Street Entrance; Redesigned Entrance to Atlanta History Museum; Enlarged Atrium Event Space; and Improved Guest Amenities: Scheduled to begin July 21, 2014; Estimated completion July 2015

Since the 1993 opening of the Atlanta History Museum, the building has grown to encompass 144,500 square feet. In 2001, the Grand Overlook ballroom event space was completed and in 2006 the Centennial Olympic Games Museum and 6,000- square-foot Goldstein Gallery opened in the Fentener Van Vlissingen Family Wing.

Capital improvements to the Atlanta History Museum affect over 37,000 square feet of the building, including a new front entrance facade and enlarged 5,300-square-foot atrium, updating the museum’s public spaces and providing new connections within the building; creating a larger pre-event function space for special events; dedicating space for a new bistro and gift shop, and reflecting a new openness in the museum – all intended to create an enhanced visitor experience.

The entrance and interior of the building are completely redesigned as a more welcoming public entry point to the History Center’s exhibition galleries, historic houses, and historic gardens, and provide an intuitive orientation to the History Center’s entire campus. A new museum corridor connects the atrium to exhibition galleries and new glass window fronts on the museum’s exhibitions invite visitors to stop and explore the many rich permanent and traveling exhibitions that the Atlanta History Museum displays.

The new main entrance, including a landscaped motor court, extends to the History Center’s front door, establishing an openness to the property that is immediately apparent to visitors. Landscaping intended to reflect the diversity of horticultural offerings in the History Center’s twenty-two acres of gardens set off the bricks-and-mortar improvements to the museum itself.

“The Atlanta History Center is an oasis between the commercial center of Buckhead and the residential area of Buckhead,” said Larry Sweat, Design Principal at Atlanta-based MSTSD. “The design of the building and interior spaces will increase connectivity and public circulation between the museum, the outside entrance and campus, and the neighborhood and surrounding businesses, signaling that the History Center is a vibrant part of Atlanta’s community that is open to all.”

All of these improvements will better serve the growing community needs resulting from the rapidly changing landscape of new residential and business development in Buckhead.

Development and Design of New Signature Atlanta History Exhibition: Currently in development; Estimated opening March 2016

The cornerstone of this campaign is the re-imagination of a signature exhibition to interpret the history of Atlanta. Metropolitan Frontiers, originally opened in 1993 as the premier exhibition on Atlanta History, was closed in January 2014 to begin the de-installation of objects and collections in preparation for construction.

An exhibition team led by Calinda Lee, Ph.D., Atlanta History Center staff Historian and curator of the new exhibition on Atlanta’s history, includes Donald R. Rooney, Atlanta History Center Director of Exhibitions, community focus groups, and exhibition design team Riggs Ward Design of Richmond. The team is responsible for developing a new 7,700-square-foot exhibition that features sustainable best practices for educational and immersive technology while remaining focused on real artifacts and documents from the History Center’s extensive collections.

The addition of immersive experiences and dedicated museum theatre spaces through the new exhibition showcase deep, personal, and comprehensive interpretations of the people, businesses, and events that shape the story of Atlanta. The exhibition will contain interactive technologies and engaging experiences where visitors can see, hear, touch, create, and explore the subject matter and a variety of new media that allow content to be modified and updated periodically as the story of Atlanta continues to unfold.

Addition of New Interpretive Historic Wood Family Cabin: Relocation to History Center May 2014; Open Date July 2014

The Atlanta History Center is relocating the historic Wood Family Cabin to its campus. Donated by Dr. and Mrs. Carl Hartrampf Jr., this log structure was originally constructed by settlers in what is now the Hollywood Road area of Atlanta. The cabin was the home of Elias and Jane Wood, ancestors of the Hartrampf family, and dates to Atlanta’s earliest days.

The land on which the cabin was built was originally acquired by white settlers in the Georgia Land Lottery following the Creek land cession of 1821 – the same treaty that provided the land on which the History Center is located. The Wood Family Cabin gives the Atlanta History Center an opportunity to expand its programming more deeply into Native American study through the cabin’s association with both Creek Indians – the cabin was originally located two miles from the site along the Chattahoochee River of the Creek settlement called Standing Peachtree, from which all Peachtree Streets receive their name – and Cherokees, who held title to the land directly across the river from the cabin until the late 1830s when they were removed from North Georgia on the Trail of Tears.

The addition of the Wood Family Cabin, made possible through support by the Peachtree Garden Club, provides the essential tangible link to developing programming for students and all visitors to learn about the cultures of these two Native American nations, including their gardening, cultivation, and land use, as well as their relationship to the natural environment and their changing perceptions about property and community over time.

Transformation of Olga C. de Goizueta Gardens: Ongoing

Created in 2007, reaffirmed at the start of the capital campaign, and implemented through support of The Goizueta Foundation, the Gardens and Grounds Master Plan provides a final and dramatic finishing touch to the full transformation of the History Center’s campus that activates the grounds for a variety of outdoor experiences designed to appeal to visitors of all ages.

Located in the heart of Atlanta, the History Center’s twenty-two acres of gardens, woodlands, and nature trails display the horticultural history of Atlanta and the American South. From plants native to the Creek and Cherokee peoples to modern gardening design and urban agriculture, the Goizueta Gardens at the Atlanta History Center form a timeline of knowledge, culture, community, and landscape.

Six historic gardens at the History Center play a vital role as public gardens, each dedicated individually to a theme or source of inspiration, providing a snapshot in time of a particular period in Atlanta’s history. Together, these gardens and the surrounding naturalistic landscape offer the community a place to reflect on its collective history and how the landscape has been adapted and changed with the shifting desires of our culture. Each of the historic gardens addresses a different period of American garden history and a select palette of appropriate plant materials. These gardens are the Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden, Smith Family Farm Gardens, Swan Woods, Swan House Gardens, Frank A. Smith Memorial Rhododendron Garden, and the Cherry Sims Asian-American Garden.

The History Center also received a generous bequest form the estate of Benjamin W. Sims, an avid supporter of the History Center’s gardens. The Cherry Sims Asian-American Garden is named in honor of his late wife, Rebecca, and a portion of this gift is used for capital improvements in the Cherry Sims and rhododendron gardens, as well as an endowment fund that supports the maintenance of those two gardens in perpetuity. In recognition of this generous gift, the History Center’s Board of Trustees has named the gardens department the “Benjamin W. Sims Gardens Department.”

The generosity of these donors allows for the completion of planned improvements to the History Center gardens and grounds, which is to be implemented in phases. Improvements to pathways and trails at Swan House, Smith Family Farm, and in Swan Woods are underway.

Sustainability, Environmental Impact, and Energy Cost Reduction

Museums are by nature significant consumers of energy due to the need to maintain specific environmental controls for artifacts in their care. Cognizant of its role as a leader in the Atlanta museum community, the Atlanta History Center has embarked on improvements to infrastructure that provide for better stewardship of its collections, financial resources, and the environment. The History Center has worked with engineers at Southface and elsewhere to identify building improvements that reduce the organization’s energy and water use while maintaining proper stewardship of its collections.

Southface engineers working for the Grants to Green program of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta identified changes to air conditioning, heating, and lighting systems. These changes are currently being implemented through the Grants to Green program, the Kendeda Fund, rebates from Georgia Power, and other donors to the capital campaign.

As a demonstration of our commitment to protecting the environment, the History Center has accepted Mayor Kasim Reed’s Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge and is committed to reduce its power and water usage by 20% by 2020.

Operation of Atlanta History Center During Renovation: Doors to Remain Open

During the renovation, the Atlanta History Center campus will remain open seven days a week for daily visitors, school and group tours, and special event clients. The Atlanta History Center main entrance will be temporarily located off Andrews Drive, admissions and ticketing will be temporarily housed in the atrium of McElreath Hall, and free and accessible parking will remain available on-site.

In preparation for the upcoming renovations, key physical and programmatic improvements are initiated in stages that would allow the History Center to remain open and active throughout the projects. With the exception of the signature Atlanta history exhibition, Metropolitan Frontiers - currently offline until March 2016 for redevelopment and design - all other permanent and traveling exhibitions; new historic house experiences at Swan House and Smith Family Farm; access to the Goizueta Gardens; Kenan Research Center; and educational, school, and adult programs, monthly family festivals, and special events will continue on the History Center’s campus.

Early phases of the capital campaign focused on physical improvements to the back of the property, including the Mabel Dorn Reeder Amphitheater, Connor Brown Discovery Trail, and the construction of the Quarry Bridge, which ultimately links the Atlanta History Museum, Swan House, Swan Coach House (leased and operated by the Forward Arts Foundation), Smith Family Farm, and Goizueta Gardens through a complete radial or circular walkway system. The bridge, funded by generous gifts from the Frances and Beverly DuBose Foundation and the Forward Arts Foundation, spans across the Quarry Garden, providing visitors with direct access from the Atlanta History Museum to Swan House, as well as a vista of the Quarry Garden.

“We are fortunate to have a campus that allows the opportunity to remain open and showcase our backyard while our front is under renovation,” said Jackson McQuigg, Vice President of Properties. “Our goal is to execute these projects according to timeline and budget, with minimal disruption to our neighbors while maintaining the best possible customer experience for visitors throughout the renovation.”

Additional grounds updates completed include the removal of barrier fences on West Paces Ferry Road, and the construction of Veterans Park, which was funded by The Home Depot Foundation.

In addition to the outward physical changes to the campus, the History Center spent has spent the past three years strategically strengthening and building audiences through new and increased programming for adults, families, and school groups. Through an early campaign gift from The Gouizeta Foundation, the History Center developed Meet the Past – a new series of on- and off-site museum theatre initiatives that brings to life the stories of real people and events from history through museum theatre and interactive interpretation.

“Meet the Past has fundamentally changed the means with which present ourselves to the public by creating an institutional culture that brings a new energy to our exhibitions, historic houses, gardens, family programs, and provides a significant new context for our artifacts and collections,” said Michael Rose, Executive Vice President, Atlanta History Center. “By presenting the personal stories of those who helped pave the way to the Atlanta we know today, major themes such as race and civil rights and Atlanta’s entrepreneurial spirit provide the framework for visitors to learn how our city came to be. Beyond documenting history, we want to emerge as an active, engaging, vibrant voice in telling Atlanta’s stories and connecting to our communities through the History Center, and all that we do – both on-site and in the community.”

Meet the Past museum theatre initiatives include weekend gallery performances in exhibitions; living history interpretation at Smith Family Farm and Swan House; public programs, like Four Days of Fury: Atlanta 1906, a one-hour immersive gallery performance; new school tours, including In Their Moccasins: The Cherokee Journey of Change, and the award-winning Price of Freedom: Causes and Consequences of the Civil War tour; and inclusion in monthly family festivals, like Sheep to Shawl, Juneteenth, and Fall Folklife Festival. Meet the Past also goes beyond the History Center’s walls into classrooms where living history characters connect students with the personal stories of people and events from the past through the use of objects and live theatre.

Throughout the renovations, the History Center continues to offer a variety of exhibitions and programming, including eleven family festivals; Homeschool Days; Magic Mondays toddler program; genealogy workshops; and reoccurring author programs at the Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House.

For updates on construction, upcoming exhibitions, calendar of events, or more information, visit the new website at or follow us on Facebook. 

About Atlanta History Center

Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is an all-inclusive, 33-acre destination featuring the Atlanta History Museum, one of the nation’s largest history museums; historic houses including the 1928 Swan House and the 1860 Smith Family Farm; the Centennial Olympic Games Museum; the Kenan Research Center; the Grand Overlook event space; Goizuetta Gardens, featuring 22 acres of gardens, walkways, paths and trails; and the newly opened museum, bookstore and Souper Jenny café. In addition, the History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House located in Midtown Atlanta. For information on Atlanta History Center offerings, hours of operation and admission call 404.814.4000 or visit


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