If your town were to illustrate the whole of its history and culture in a set of only fifty objects, what might you see? That’s a question the Atlanta History Center began posing to city residents back in 2014 via social media. And now, the center’s new “Atlanta in 50 Objects” exhibit answers it with a variety of items as diverse as the city itself.
The exhibit includes such Atlanta highlights as The Varsity, a downtown drive-in dining staple since 1928, represented by a casted version of the classic combo #1 order—two chilidogs, fries, and a Frosted Orange. It pokes fun at Atlanta’s infamously woeful traffic problems with a live-feed map of traffic congestion around the city. It even features an 11-foot Holstein cow urging you to “Eat Mor Chikin,” as is the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A way.
Much of Atlanta’s history is tangled in its fate in the wake of the Civil War. Also among the items exhibited: General Sherman’s original Special Field Order No. 67 to evacuate Atlanta in 1864, the “Atlanta from the Ashes” statue, erected 100 years after the city’s destruction to commemorate its return to prosperity, and a first edition copy of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved Gone With the Wind. (The author’s home is part of the Atlanta History Center.)
It’s a smorgasbord of symbols that avoids favoritism or ranking, says Don Rooney, director of exhibitions at the center, although he does have a few personal favorites.
“When I was a child, we’d ride into Atlanta during Christmas time to see and ride the Pink Pig and go shopping at Rich’s downtown, so I’m especially nostalgic to pieces like that in the exhibit,” Rooney said, “It’s a fun, emotional, and nostalgic practice, looking back at the things that make a city.”
All fifty pieces will remain on display at the newly renovated Nicholson Gallery at the Atlanta History Center until July 10.