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Renovated museum provides grand, insightful experience into Civil Rights movement

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Nearly 10 years of planning and construction, and a budget of $28 million allows visitors to immerse themselves in the struggle for justice. Nearly 10 years of planning and construction, and a budget of $28 million allows visitors to immerse themselves in the struggle for justice.
The fire bombing of the Freedom Riders buses was enhanced. Now, it looks like the bus is burning. The fire bombing of the Freedom Riders buses was enhanced. Now, it looks like the bus is burning.
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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The National Civil Rights Museum had not had an overhaul in more than 20 years.

Now that the stunning transformation is complete, it will be unrecognizable to people who have already paid it a visit.

As soon as visitors step through the doors of the newly renovated National Civil Rights Museum, they know they will see something special.

"It's a little more grander experience. You know you're in a national museum," said National Civil Rights Museum Director of Administration Tracey Wright.

Nearly 10 years of planning and construction, and a budget of $28 million, allows visitors to immerse themselves in the struggle for justice.

"Trying to put our visitors in this place in history and make them feel like they're a part of this history," explained Wright.

It is a history that begins with the transatlantic slave trade.

"We wanted to do a better job of interpreting the origins of the movement, which really began the minute people were taken from their home and families never to return again," Wright said.

There is even a space for you to crouch down in the belly of a slave ship.

"So we see slavery impacted the global economy and everyone was a part of it," said Wright, adding that visitors will learn how long it took to make changes through court decisions like Brown vs. Board of Education.

"So we look at the legal decision, but also, how did desegregation play out across the country, or not play out," added Wright.

An interactive map lets visitors see how desegregation unfolded in every state.

"We show the slow pace of desegregation," Wright demonstrated. "One of the stories we highlight is Boston, which finally desegregated in 1974, 20 years after the Brown vs. Board decision."

The iconic exhibits, are still at the museum:

- The Edmond Pettis Bridge and the march from Selma to Montgomery

- The bus boycott of Alabama

- The sanitation workers strike in Memphis

- The fire bombing of the Freedom Riders buses was enhanced. Now, it looks like the bus is burning.

"You know you're in a safe place, but maybe that emotional experience that you had helps you understand what folks were going through," suggested Wright.

There is a Malcolm X exhibit, and the new political and cultural exhibit called "Black Power, Black Pride."

And before visitors hit the road, they can find a way to get involved by taking a look at the issues that matter to them and use the interactive table to show support for that cause and link up with other activists.

"We have renovated every square foot of the museum. Every exhibit is different, new, reconfigured," said Wright.

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