Atlanta '96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City
More than 20 years after the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this new signature exhibition considers the impact of the Games on the city and our lives. The Games mean something different to everyone, including individuals involved in preparations, people living near venues, competitors, and fans. The exhibition places this recent past within the context of Atlanta’s longer history of reinvention and growth initiatives, prompting visitors to think about how we can change the places in which we live.
Atlanta ’96 tells new stories and expands on memories of the Games, placing Atlanta’s Olympic and Paralympic histories in the context of the city itself. Drawn from Atlanta History Center’s distinctive collections, the exhibition creates a visitor experience coupling iconic and unexpected objects, archival materials, and still and moving images along with specially developed touchless interactive experiences. The exhibition invites visitors to examine the people, events, and decisions that shaped the Atlanta we know today.
Focusing on the city’s late-20th-century urban landscape and regional development, Atlanta ‘96 situates the Games in the timeline of Olympic cities and invites visitors to consider the massive undertaking of the Games through four distinct lenses:
Envisioning. This theme highlights the profiles of eleven notable leaders who shaped the city’s future in the years before the Olympic and Paralympic Games. These profiles capture a cross-section of Atlanta during the 1970s and 1980s, including former mayors, artists, athletes, activists, philanthropists, and disability rights advocates.
Campaigning. This theme tells the story of Atlanta’s bid for the 1996 Olympic Games, including the process of gaining funding and public support in the years before the summer of 1996. It highlights parallel activities, such as the push to include the Paralympic Games and the Olympics Out of Cobb protest movement. In the process, it reveals the way that actions and ambitions clashed and collaborated with the Games.
Realizing. This theme highlights the work behind the Games—developing infrastructure, building and repurposing venues, stagecraft—and the impact on local communities and venue-adjacent neighborhoods. This section also presents visitors with the opportunity to relive select Olympic and Paralympic moments and view items from the Games.
Reflecting. The final thematic section invites visitors to think critically about the benefits and costs of the Olympic Games, and similar events on Atlanta and cities in general. It asks visitors to think about the future of Atlanta and their ideal vision for their own communities.
Major support of this exhibition has been generously provided by the James M. Cox Foundation, Marine and John Fentener van Vlissingen, Bank of America, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Martha and Billy Payne, The UPS Foundation, Martie and Dennis Zakas, and The Rich Foundation.