National Civil Rights Museum


Ralph Appelbaum Associates

Practice Area


National Civil Rights Museum


Project Vision

National Civil Rights Museum Expansion

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took place at the Lorraine Motel and Young and Morrow Building/Boarding House on April 4, 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum, with its existing and new exhibition program, assists the visitor in understanding the significance of the site. The design problem was to transform an historic as well as tragic site into an educational and inspirational institution. The inclusion of the Boarding House (where the alleged assassin stayed and from which he is said to have fired the fatal shot) on the museum campus necessitated a carefully told story. To link the existing museum building with the expansion building, a tunnel was built; exhibits within the tunnel recall the world’s reaction just after Dr. King’s death, the funeral, and the Movement’s struggle to continue in the weeks following the assassination. The Boarding House bathroom and adjoining rooms were left untouched except for minimal graphics; minimal text was added to the glass window to King’s Lorraine Motel room. New interpretive exhibits near the alleged assassin’s rooms tell the story of the assassination through first-hand witness accounts, trial transcripts, and the Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk evidence materials, now part of the museum’s artifact collection.

Project Details
This museum exhibition is an excellent resolution of emotion and information. The entrance gate to the Boarding House exhibits tunnel is deeply moving, using typographic positive/negative space of a key Martin Luther King quote to create a secure barrier with multiple references to prisons and security bars, as well as an entrance to a better place, the illuminated corridor inside.
Juror 1
Design Team

Ralph Appelbaum (Principal in Charge)

Design Firm

Ralph Appelbaum Associates


1220 Exhibits