To mark its 75th anniversary, an exhibit called Blast from the Past, scheduled to open in late February, features artifacts acquired by the museum from the 1940s to the 1980s. On display will be large collections of fossils, gems, rocks, butterflies and seashells.
Opening in 1937 on the second floor of the old Academy of Richmond County building on Telfair Street, the museum moved in 1996 to its current building at Sixth Street between Broad and Reynolds streets. The museum shifted its focus from general interest to primarily history exhibits in the late 1980s, said Nancy Glaser, the executive director of the museum.
Photographs of old exhibits at the Telfair Street museum will also be displayed. Other items include an oven from the iconic Smoaks Bakery on Walton Way, a World War I trench gun and a bison, which was bought in 1996.
“A lot of the collections we have were from local people who were out there collecting things. We rely on them,” Glaser said.
The celebratory year will also be marked by lectures focusing on highlights of the past 75 years of Augusta history by Mike Ryan and Bill Kirby, editors of The Augusta Chronicle. Earlier this month, Glaser lectured on the museum’s history, especially the directors who influenced the museum’s success.
“Every director down built on the success of their predecessor,” she said. “They all made strides to the future and built on it.”
Glaser became the museum’s first female director when she took over leadership in 2005. She has handled tough funding cutbacks but looks forward to documenting the collection digitally. Two technology grants from the Community Foundation of the CSRA and the Creel-Harison Foundation helped the museum buy equipment to put the collection online, she said.
Amanda Klaus, the museum registrar, has discovered the lasting legacy of the museum’s early collectors while sorting through massive collections in storage.
“The people in charge really were interested in bringing in as many items as they could,” Klaus said.
The exhibit will be housed in a classroom space because the museum has run out of display areas. Only 10 percent of the museum’s collections can be displayed at one time.
“I’d love to have a new wing one day,” Glaser said. “Until then, we keep rotating collections. If there’s an empty wall, we find something to hang on it.”