The focus of our museum exhibit is the experience of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, particularly of the segregation that they were subjected to as they were denied essential American socialization during the early 1960s. Our objective was to establish empathy for the struggles of African Americans during this period by imparting the feeling of segregation onto our guests. We accomplished this by separating the space into two distinct phases: a segregated portion, characterized by high sensory deprivation and withholding of experience, and a transitional space that introduces guests into a content-rich exhibit, eventually allowing them to reflect on their time in the segregated space. These phases in turn are broken down into five distinct “zones”: Approach, Defamiliarization, Debriefing, Reflection and Consummation.
By mediating the experience through the exhibit space itself, our design seeks to build a better understanding of segregation for a generation largely removed from the situated tension and isolation of the Civil Rights Movement, and generates an empathetic connection to the stories and events that shape this important moment in American History.