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Northeast Georgia History Center turns 5 today
Museum works to tell, preserve areas stories
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Glen Kyle, managing director of the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University, gives a quick tour of the center. The center’s newest exhibit is a rare collection of Civil War photographs.

Celebration events

Saturday: Free admission to all visitors in observance of Mother’s Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday: Politics forum featuring The Times Community Editor Harris Blackwood, 7 p.m.

May 17: Family Sunday in Wilshire Trails Park as part of the annual Butterfly Release event, 1-4 p.m.

May 25: Memorial Day Freedom Garden Celebration and Veterans’ Reception, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

May 28: A birthday reception for members, 5-7 p.m.

By the numbers

17,000: The total number of vistors to the Northeast Georgia History Center in five years

12,000: The number of students who have visited the center in five years

30,000: The number of volunteer hours spent at the center in five years

600: Current history center members

What kind of birthday gift can you get for a history center that has everything?

A donation would help Northeast Georgia History Center, which turns 5 years old today, expand its holdings to feature a more in-depth picture of the people, places and events that have shaped the region. Plans call for adding to the center’s exhibits over the next three to five years as funds become available.

"We always have to keep our mission in mind, which is to preserve and share the history of Northeast Georgia," said history center managing director Glen Kyle. "Of course, with an institution like us, fundraising is always an issue to make sure we can keep fulfilling those missions."

Before opening in its current building on May 6, 2004, the museum, then called the Georgia Mountains Museum, was crowded into a fire station on Green Street.

"The old location, they had done a really good job with the space they had available. They had done as much as they could with the location they had," Kyle said. "But to really grow and make that paradigm shift, they needed a new building, a new mission and all that came about because of the vision of folks who had supported it for so long and continue to support it — Jim and Frances Mathis and John Jacobs and so many others that have worked to make it what it is."

In partnership with Brenau University, the renamed the Northeast Georgia History Center was built on campus around the Chief White Path cabin and Hoyt Herrin blacksmith shop. In May 2007, An American Freedom Garden was opened on the new site, too.

Exhibits and displays that were cramped into the old museum now have plenty of space for interpretive display.

"So when they came in, they had this entire empty gallery space — it was really a blank canvas — and they were able to lay the story of the region on that blank canvas onto it," Kyle said Monday as he walked through the museum’s Land of Promise exhibit.

The exhibit includes some large pieces — two wagons, a 1930s Ford truck and a replica of a small country store — that wouldn’t fit in the old museum.

While many artifacts were moved from the old museum, the tornado machine is one of the most popular new items, Kyle said.

"This is by far the most popular aspect. When the school groups come in, this is the part they just love," he said.

The walls in the room housing the machine and the 1936 Gainesville Tornado Exhibit are covered with historic photos of the aftermath of the deadly 1936 tornado that leveled parts of downtown Gainesville. One image that shows law enforcement and others cleaning up the wreckage is enlarged to fill an entire wall.

In addition to expanding the museum’s permanent exhibits, Kyle wants to add exhibits to the rotating gallery. Previous items in that space include artifacts depicting the 1950s, the 1996 Olympics on Lake Lanier, little black dresses, World War II and toys.

For the next two months, the gallery will be home to Portraits in Gray, a collection of Civil War photography. The exhibit, moved from its home in the Kennesaw Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History for the first time, features 70 images of Confederate soldiers.

Other than new exhibits, what do the next five years hold for the history center?

"I think keeping our focus on education and keeping our focus on improvement of our exhibits and getting relevant exhibits in," Kyle said. "I want to make sure that we reach out to the entire area, all the counties we serve and let them know their story’s being told here, too. We want to work with them to tell that story, we want them to come here to learn about that story."

Regional events