Museum Design Plans

The Museum of Civil Rights will also powerfully link civil rights history to ongoing contemporary movements. Visitors will explore immersive, multidisciplinary exhibits on the history of the northern civil rights movement and take part in social justice activism within the museum. Inspired by participatory democracy, a central tenet of civil rights movement history, MCR is envisioned as an educational institution that promotes active learning. A series of dynamic programmatic spaces will be embedded within the fabric of the museum. These include a state-of-the- art laboratory for creative arts and media connected to social justice; a community- curated gallery to showcase local talent; a forum for conferences and symposia; and a rooftop teaching garden.

A movement incubator in Harlem


MCR’s entry area doubles as a vibrant, flexible programming space. Inspired by Harlem’s architecture, particularly its brownstone stoops, the lobby’s design features tiered structures where visitors can gather, connect, and recharge. A central light installation featuring iconic protest slogans anchors the past to the present. Portraits of legendary activists are etched into the frosted-glass walls that separate the lobby from multipurpose spaces.

The museum will engage with current issues by hosting changing exhibitions, lectures, performances, and other events addressing a broad range of topics, including racial, economic, gender, LGBTQIA+, environmental, and immigrant justice.

Goals of the Museum

  • Foster an appreciation for the rich cultural heritage landscape of Harlem and New York City
  • Harness the power of media in storytelling and technology in creating interactive exhibits for visitors to learn from past social movements and engage in social justice activism today
  • Create a participatory educational and research institution
  • Develop and lead local, national and international partner networks
  • Showcase exhibits and archival collections which will be on permanent and rotating display

The Harlem Lab for Social Change

The Harlem Lab for Social Change is a state-of-the-art laboratory for media production and the creative arts connected to social justice. 

The Rooftop Teaching Garden

MCR’s terrace is conceived as a Teaching Garden that can serve as a site for harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a platform for community organizations to educate visitors about local foodways and contemporary food systems.

The Harlem Forum

The Harlem Forum is a flexible programming space with unparalleled views of the city.