Memorial association CEO Bill Stephens said he had already heard from two or three major exhibit companies who were intrigued by the project, which he envisions as having “Smithsonian-like” quality.
“It’s important,” Stephens said, “and it’s going to be historic.”
The call for proposals asks interested companies to submit detailed conceptual plans for a 4,000-square-foot exhibit space on the second floor of Stone Mountain Park’s existing Memorial Hall building. It says that “current scholarship calls for a reexamination of the memorial’s history and the development of new interpretation,” but otherwise provides only a few specifics about that history.
Stephens said that wasn’t necessary.
“These companies know the issues very well, and they’re used to doing controversial projects and those of a historic nature,” Stephens said. “So we just think it’s understood that they would do their research on the history and present what they think is a true, accurate and factual telling of the story.”
An “open house” for potential bidders is scheduled for January, and proposals are not due until April 12, 2022. Development of the full exhibit plan would not be completed until early 2023, documents said.
Stephens attributed the lengthy timeline to the complexity of the undertaking.
A separate committee intended to help steer the exhibit’s content, meanwhile, still has not been assembled.
The committee, which Stephens and memorial association board chair Abraham Mosley have said will include community leaders and historians, was cleared to be created more than five months ago. While the memorial association board would maintain final approval, committee members would weigh in on suggestions and proposals from the company tasked with physically creating the exhibit.
Leaders originally predicted a relatively quick timeline for the committee’s selection process, but it has seemingly been harder than anticipated to attract potential committee members.
“A couple of historians that we talked with, to their credit, wanted to see some progress and actually know that it was going to be done,” Stephens said Wednesday. “By posting the [request for proposals] and by saying publicly that we’re actually doing this, that certainly helps in recruitment.”
Some activists, meanwhile, are skeptical about the entire process. They’re also more focused on advocating for other, quicker changes that could be made at the park.
Those include changing the names of streets that honor Confederate leaders and the name of the park’s Venable Lake. That body of water honors Samuel Venable, a Klansman whose family owned Stone Mountain and granted Confederate groups the original permission to create a carving on its northern face.
“None of these projects [like the museum exhibit] really do anything,” said Bona Allen, a leader of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition. “They’re not doing anything to remove names of KKK leaders from lakes.”