Open through September 29, 2019
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 was—wait for it—barbecued 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.