Well Worth the Drive
Visiting Georgia's MuseumsIn the midst of unpacking your bags, getting your new life in order and exploring your new surroundings here in Metro Atlanta, hopefully you’ve learned about some of the great museums you might visit inside Atlanta’s Perimeter. However, you may not know that, beginning just outside the Perimeter, there are over 250 museums and historic sites throughout the state, inviting you to hit the road and explore much of the history, art, and culture that make Georgia so special.
We’re fortunate in Georgia to have some great jewels throughout our state,” affirms Kevin Langston, Georgia Deputy Commissioner for Tourism. In fact, the state has many museums that are well worth the drive from Atlanta. So why not take a drive outside the Perimeter and beyond to see what the rest of the state has to offer?
History Museums and Historical Sites
Commemorating the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Columbus Museum has an exhibit running through June called 150 Years Later: Our Civil War and Its Legacy. The museum, which concentrates on regional history as well as American art, also offers a Lunch and Lecture series and a Civil War Reenactment Series, featuring first person narratives about life during the Civil War from the perspectives of soldier, slave, and woman.
Another wonderful resource for Civil War buffs is the Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus. Visitors can tour the Water Witch, a full-scale representation of a United States Navy ship commissioned in 1852. Relics from other U.S. and Confederate vessels, including the CSS Jackson, the largest surviving Confederate warship, are also on display. This year, the museum will also feature exhibits highlighting the challenges faced by the Confederacy in building a navy from scratch.
Another popular historical site is the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville, the state’s first capital. With a designation on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Governor’s Mansion is considered one of the finest surviving examples of High Greek Revival architecture.
As home to Georgia’s oldest African-American community, formed out of the port city’s role in the slave trade, Savannah is home to the state’s official civil rights museum, The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. The museum showcases the work of Georgia’s civil rights leaders and illustrates the hardships of the African- American community through a series of interactive exhibits, photography, and video presentations.
The National Prisoner of War Museum at Camp Sumter in Andersonville tells the story of American military personnel held as prisoners of war from the American Revolution through current U.S. military conflicts. Part of our National Park Service, the Prisoner of War Museum offers guided tours of the historic prison site and the grounds. There is also an active military burial ground on the site where some 12,000 Union soldiers who died while imprisoned at Andersonville are buried.
For a more comprehensive look into the history of Southwest Georgia, check out the History Museum at the Thornateeska Heritage Center in Albany which explores the history of the region from the Creek Indians through the Industrial Age. Visitors can also tour Albany’s historic Union Depot and see a vintage steam locomotive and other rail cars.
Science and Children’s Museums
Also housed at Albany’s Thornateeska Heritage Center are the Thornateeska Science Museum and Wetherbee Planetarium. In the Science Museum, children can engage in hands on activities to learn more about geology, physical science, archaeology, paleontology, and more. At the Planetarium, children and adults alike will enjoy learning more about our Universe in the Spitz SciDome, a revolutionary 40 ft. dome featuring a high-definition projection system and 5.1 Dolby Digital® Surround Sound.
The six-story Georgia Children’s Museum in Macon provides hours of fascinating fun for little minds. With story times and craft activities, children can take a break from exploring fun exhibits like Recollections 4.5, a music and dance activity featuring a laser light show; a variety of traveling exhibits; and Passages Through Time, a 6,000 sq. ft. exhibit that looks at the life of Middle Georgia’s Creek Indians. The Kids Towne exhibit allows children to run a town, working at its bank, running the government, and working in its stores.
The Museum of Aviation, housed on the Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, features exhibits on a variety of modern and vintage aircraft; The Korean War: America’s Forgotten War; an exhibit on the E-8C Joint Surveillance, Target, Attack Radar Systems. The museum is also home to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame and hosts a variety of camps and classes for children from preK to eighth grade.
North up I-75, Cartersville’s Tellus Science Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, will delight both children and adults. In fact, in 2011, Tellus will pass 500,000 visitors. Kids can participate in a fossil dig or pan for gems. The Decathlon Solar House, designed and built by Georgia Tech students, is a self-sufficient house that teaches children about making homes more energy efficient and “green.” Tellus also features the Weinman Mineral Gallery, a collection of more than 50 cases of gems and minerals plus interactive exhibits illustrating the functioning of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Highlights of the museum’s extensive fossil collection include a Megaladon, a prehistoric shark that was longer than a school bus; and an Underwater Georgia exhibit, highlighting giant fish and reptiles that were native to our state.
Art and Cultural Heritage Museums
Also located in Cartersville, you will find the Booth Western Art Museum, the second largest art museum in Georgia and another Smithsonian affiliate. (Making Cartersville the smallest town in the country with multiple Smithsonian-affiliated museums.) The Booth features a permanent, rotating collection of Western art, Civil War art, and a Presidential Gallery that includes a one-page signed letter from each of our American Presidents. The Western art collection is broken into six galleries and features hundreds of paintings and sculptures including work by famed American artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as by contemporary American and Native American artists like Allan Houser, Kevin Red Star, Thom Ross, Kim Wiggins, and Ethelinda Robbins. The museum’s Civil War exhibition showcases works depicting the battles of the Civil War displayed in chronological order to help give visitors a more complete understanding of battles as they occurred. The exhibit features a special collection by artist Mort Künstler called Civil War Art: For Us the Living. This year, to honor the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, the Booth Museum, in partnership with the Bartow History Museum, will co-host Civil War Comes Alive! illustrating various aspects of the Civil War.
Augusta’s Morris Museum of Art is the first museum fully dedicated to the art and artists of the South. Started in 1989 with a collection of just 235 fine works of art, the museum’s collection now includes over 5,000 original works. Galleries include Antebellum Portraiture, Civil War art, Impressionism in the South, Landscapes, Contemporary, and Self-Taught Artists. Featured artists include Ellsworth Woodward, Helen Maria Turner, Nellie Mae Rowe, and Howard Finster, among many others.
The Albany Museum of Art offers a broader collection of works. Holding over 2,100 works of American, African, and European art, the museum displays over 200 works at any given time and houses one of the most extensive collections of sub-Saharan African art in the United States. The African collection features masks, jewelry, sculpture, and pottery while the American and European collections focus on paintings, photography, and sculpture. Featured American artists include A.L. Ripley, Edward Potthast, and Reginald Marsh.
The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in Sautee Nacoochee honors one of the premier art forms of the Southern Highlands. As one of only two states with an unbroken 200-year long tradition of this folk art form, Georgia is renowned for its folk pottery and there is much to see at this beautiful museum. Currently, the museum is highlighting the work of Georgia’s own Arie Meaders with a year-long special exhibition of her work.
Finally, no list of Georgia museums would be complete without the Gone with the Wind Museum. Located on Marietta’s town square, this small gem features memorabilia from the 1939 Academy Award winning movie. There you’ll see costumes worn by actors in the movie as well as scripts, Margaret Mitchell’s personal copies of the book, foreign press articles about the film, and promotional materials.
These are but a few of Georgia’s amazing art, historical, and cultural offerings. Don’t let crossing outside the perimeter intimidate you. Hit the road and see all our great state has to offer.
FIND OUT MORE
Albany Museum of Art
Booth Western Art Museum
The Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus
The Columbus Museum
Georgia Children’s Museum
Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia
Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Morris Museum of Art
Museum of Aviation
National Prisoner of War Museum
Andersonville National Historic Site
The Old Governor’s Mansion
Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
Tellus Science Museum
Thornateeska Heritage Center