Montgomery Bus Boycott story will be told in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit

It took about a year's worth of negotiations to get "381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story" to Columbus. This is an exhibit curated by the Smithsonian Institution that tells the story of Rosa Parks and her stand against racism in 1955.

"It all began when Claudya (Muller, director of the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System) mentioned she wanted a Smithsonian exhibit before she retired," said Linda Hyles, the library's marketing coordinator.

Henry McCoy, the library's program manager started looking up the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibitions. He decided that "381 Days" would be a good one for this area. It was curated in 2005 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the boycott. The Columbus Public Library will be just one of two libraries that this exhibit has been shown. The other was in Charlotte, N.C., in 2006.

The application was 30 pages long, McCoy said. The Smithsonian is meticulous about getting details like the size of the exhibit hall to who would hang the exhibit, he said.

Because the CB & T Room in the Columbus Public Library is smaller than any of the previous spaces the exhibit has been in, McCoy had to draw and redraw how the exhibit will look.

Once he knew that the exhibit will arrive in Columbus, McCoy needed help to hang the exhibit. It came on a 53-foot, climate-controlled truck. Once the exhibits are in place, the crates have to be stored in a climate-controlled environment until the show is taken down. Because there is no such place in Columbus, the crates will be put back in the truck, which will take it to an art storage unit in Atlanta.

To hang the show, McCoy enlisted the help of Hannah Israel, the Columbus State University department art's gallery director. She found four students willing to give up their Saturday to work. And work they did, unpacking 20 500-pound crates that make up this exhibit.

"It's all very complicated and almost a little frightening," Hyles said.

The four students, wearing white cotton gloves, worked together as a team, carefully removing the exhibit items out of the crates and then installing them.

Lauren Bausch, 24, a senior art major focusing in ceramics, works in the Illges Gallery in the CSU Corn Center for Visual Arts, so she has some experience in handling art.

"I thought it would be a great experience," she said. She's thinking of working in a museum when she graduates next year and this was a good experience.

"It's not every day that you get to open things from the Smithsonian," she said with a smile. "But we have a lot of work to do."

The students will take today off, and return on Monday to finish putting the exhibit up. It opens to the public on Nov. 2.

Israel said it usually takes a team of 20 to put this particular exhibit together. She and McCoy were doing it with four students.

The other students are Marie LaFleur, 25, a senior graduating at the end of this semester, who is majoring in sculpture; Jennifer Miles, 20, a sophomore majoring in art education and Cole Gordon, 23, a senior who is graduating in the spring.

"This will look good on my resume," Gordon said. He is taking classes in all aspects of art, including drawing, ceramics, metal sculpture, studio pottery, welding and photography.

The exhibit, including the guest speakers cost almost $95,000, will take visitors through the chronological history of the Montgomery bus boycott as well as key dates in the Civil Rights movement.

At the end of the exhibit, visitors will go into a small conference room, where they can watch the 2002 40-minute, Academy Award-nominated documentary, "Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks." If they had lived during these times, they may write down their stories for an AARP project called "Voices of Civil Rights." It will be compiled and archived by AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Library of Congress.