So you think you know the Atlanta History Center? Been there. Done that. Well you may want to see it again. The Atlanta History Center has added an exciting new feature to its artifacts bringing history to life. Literally.

“Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta,” a 7,700-square-foot exhibit which opened this summer, transports visitors to key moments in Atlanta’s history. The exhibit covers family and community life, politics and justice, urban growth and cultural life with more than 750 artifacts, music, oral histories and even computer games.

Gatheround expands the history center’s Meet the Past program that uses actors portraying people in history. The actors are staged in specific parts of the exhibit on weekends to perform monologues with visitors.

My kids and I (ages 4 to 15) had the chance to “travel back” with two historical figures: Rosalyn Walton (one of the Atlanta Nine, the students who desegregated Atlanta Public Schools in 1961, played by Anterior Leverett) and Alonzo Herndon (Atlanta’s first black millionaire, played by Marcus Hopkins Turner). Other historical figures that visitors might see on another weekend include former Georgia Gov. John M. Slaton, who commuted the death sentence for Leo Frank, a newsboy who recounts the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 and Eli Soto, a Greek Holocaust survivor who ran a barbershop for six decades in Midtown Atlanta.

Initially, I thought my youngest two wouldn’t understand or stay attentive throughout the performances. They surprised me! My daughter peppered me with questions about “the little girl” and asked “why were they mean to her in school?” My 7-year-old, remembering things he’d learned in school last year, was very excited to “see” history.

The actor and actress themselves were phenomenal, adding to the experience. Each performance feels like a mini play lasting about 15 minutes. There are various historical character performances staggered throughout the day each weekend day, allowing time to visit other parts of the center.

We caught the 11:30 a.m. performance of Rosalyn and the 2:30 p.m. performance of Alonzo. Between performances, we explored the interactive exhibits within the Gallery, then visited the Smith Family Farm and the Swan House, which also presents Meet the Past characters. We grabbed snacks and drinks at Souper Jenny, which offers a full menu of healthy and delicious meals.

If you’ve been to the Atlanta History Center before, you may want to give it a second look on an upcoming Saturday or Sunday to take in a performance. If you’ve never been, there is no time like the present.

– Melissa Williams

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