1961 Freedom Rides Exhibit

Merit Award

The historic Freedom Rides of 1961, which ended in violence at the Greyhound Bus Station in Montgomery, Ala., were a key event in the American Civil Rights Movement. As the first step in an eventual renovation of the station, the Alabama Historical Commission sought to memorialize the site and present it as a key historical artifact.

Ralph Appelbaum Associates was tasked with designing an exhibit for the exterior of the bus station. The design team’s goal was to bring the story to life for visitors, many of whom were not of age or even born when it occurred.

Working with a budget of only $55,000 for fabrication, the Appelbaum team focused on placing the story in historical context by providing a chronological and thematic breakdown of the events of May 20 and its aftermath. Because of the historic significance of the building, exhibit panels could not be attached to the brick façade. Exhibit surfaces also had to be durable to withstand weather and visitors’ touches.

Appelbaum’s solution was an 18-in. timeline in Folia high-pressure laminate, wrapping two sides of the station façade. The exhibit also engages four large station windows, which became the screens for rear-projected images and quotes relevant to the Freedom Rides. The exhibit provides a daily breakdown of the Rides themselves and profiles of the Freedom Riders, state and national political figures, and local law enforcement officials.

Jury Comments: 

“The jury appreciated the way this exterior exhibit is the first phase of a larger strategy for renovating a historic bus station as a permanent exhibit space. The exhibit panels have a well considered relation to the sidewalk and existing architectural features. At the same time, color and typography choices were perfect for both the historic black and white photographs and the buff brick of the existing building. The tone of the exhibit is appropriate, since the site is as much a memorial as an historic site.”

Design Firm: 

Ralph Appelbaum Associates


Alabama Historical Commission

Location City: 

Montgomery, Ala.

Open Date: 


Project Budget: 


Photo Credits: 

Peter Mauss/Esto

Design Team: 

Ralph Appelbaum (principal in charge), Marianne Schuit (project director/design), Francis O’Shea (project director/content), Gabriele Schies (graphic designer), Nikki Amdur (editor)


Tara White (researcher), Kathryn Williams (photo researcher)


1220 Exhibits

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