Located on the university’s Montgomery Campus, the Rosa Parks Museum opened on Dec. 1, 2000, on the very spot that Mrs. Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white male. Constructed on the site of the former Empire Theater, the museum has become a major landmark in the revitalization of downtown Montgomery. Dr. Felicia Bell serves as the museum’s director.
The museum chronicles Parks’ arrest and the 381-day boycott of Montgomery city buses by African Americans that brought change not only to the city of Montgomery, Alabama, but also throughout the United States. It features a permanent exhibit, a children’s wing exhibit called the “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” an art gallery, special collection, an auditorium and a conference room.
The museum’s tour includes a cinematic reenactment of Mrs. Parks’ famous arrest and personal testimonials from individuals who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Artifacts include a restored 1955 station wagon, a replica of the public bus on which Mrs. Parks was sitting on the day of her arrest and original historic documents of that era.
In the museum’s atrium, visitors can view a life-sized bronze sculpture of Mrs. Parks seated on a bus bench. Commissioned by Troy University and created by sculptor Erik Blome of Chicago, Illinois, the work has been a popular attraction for visitors since the museum opened in 2000.
The “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine” is a 20-minute virtual trip through time, and is a replica of the Cleveland Avenue bus where Mrs. Parks was arrested. Using special lighting, seven-projector video, audio and fog effects, the “Time Machine” takes visitors back in time covering historical events from the Jim Crow Era to the modern Civil Rights Movement. Visitors observe scenes of segregation as well as social and legal challenges made by individuals like Harriet Tubman, Dred Scott and Homer Plessy. In addition, visitors learn about the legal hurdles of discrimination and segregation that helped reshape the social and political culture of the 20th century.
In addition to permanent and traveling exhibits, the museum annually provides educational programs for school children from throughout Alabama, as well as a variety of events that are open to the public.