MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday was a historic day for Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum at the old Lorraine Motel as they broke ground on a two-year expansion project.
The groundbreaking commemorated a historic past and a future to become the dream today and tomorrow. The turn of the shovel is for the museum’s new Legacy Building and Founders Park renovations.
“Today is a momentous day at the National Civil Rights Museum for Memphis and for the state of Tennessee and for this country,” said Russ Wigginton, President of the National Civil Right Museum. “The renovations at Founders Park and the Legacy Building sets us up to be much more powerful in our messaging, many more educational opportunities for our visitors, and an opportunity for people to come to the National Civil Rights Museum and be inspired.”
The two-year project will focus on the museum’s campus west of Mulberry Street. It will expand the first floor of the historic boarding house including digital exhibitions and exhibits on Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Freedom Award.
“We’ve (Blue Cross Blue Shield) invested 9.6 million dollars to reimagine this space for people to be able to come and reflect after visiting the museum. It’ll be an amazing space not just for Memphians, but people across the country,” said Kevin Woods, Blue Cross Blue Shield Vice President for the Memphis market.
The second-floor exhibitions will explore the Civil Rights Movement since Dr. King’s assassination and what has happened since those days.
“The legacy building will help address that. It will be thematic. It will talk about social justice issues that were central to Dr. King’s last “Where Do We Go From Here (book),” said Wigginton.
The third-floor exhibitions will examine how today’s activism impacts our communities and policies around poverty, education, jobs, housing, criminal justice, and gender equality as the National Civil Rights Museum looks back at the issues of the past and today.
“This museum will continue its critical role to tell our history, to inspire positive social change, and to give us all that special space,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield Board Chair Emily Reynolds.
The National Civil Rights Museum opened in 1991. It’s had more than 300,000 visitors and now expects the expansion in 2025 will mean half a million people visiting the museum every year.