Originally created 05/18/98

Museum Day notes historic institutions



Blue-eyed Marie Hammond of Edgefield, S.C., turned her face up to study the drawing of an 1837 Creek Indian hanging on the wall of the Augusta-Richmond County Museum.

"That's my relative," she told her husband, Charles.

Her grandmother, Mary Jane Hawkins, was a descendant. "She looked like an Indian," she said. Six of her children were dark; and six blond and blue-eyed like Mrs. Hammond.

Mrs. Hammond took advantage of Museum Day on Sunday in Augusta to introduce her husband to the chief and some of her family history.

The event, sponsored by the International Council of Museums, highlights the role historical institutions play in promoting community understanding. Visitors could take a trolley to any of eight sites participating downtown. Fort Gordon's Signal Museum also participated.

Jim McGaw of Thomson, dressed as a colonist from his white, loose-fitting shirt to his black, square-toed shoes, displayed a hammered dulcimer in the county museum's lobby.

The instrument had been used for about 1500 years before it was supplanted by the piano in the 1400s, said Mr. McGaw, a music education teacher at Dearing Elementary School. Its small size relative to a piano made it popular among the colonists -- rich ones, at least.

Only the rich could afford a waterproof box big enough to transport it across the Atlantic, he said.

The dulcimer familiar to fans of mountain and folk music evolved from a smaller version, called a scheitholt. Mountaineers in the Smokies added a sound box to the scheitholt when they needed a bigger sound to accompany cloggers, he said. They took the name from the King James Bible, he said as he played the instrument across his lap.

Dulcimers can run between $150 and $250. The hammered version, played with small mallets, costs between $700 and $2,500, he said.

Outside, Paul Perry, from near Harlem, smoked an eye-of-the-round over an open fire. Nearby were deer skins and a flintlock rifle, a style used by colonists, he said.

Mr. Perry, owner of Perry Dental Lab, hunts with his custom-made gun. A shooter measures black powder into the muzzle and then uses a hickory ramrod to shove a cloth-wrapped lead ball on top of the powder. With a touch more powder to the lock, the rifle is ready to fire. "If I'm in a hurry, I can do it in 20 seconds," he said.

Competition for the Indian trade gave Augusta its start. Traders swapped pots, utensils, edge weapons and cloth for green hides, then shipped them in 150-pound bundles to British tanners, he said. "Deer skins made excellent clothing."

After a while, the Indians became dependent on the settlers' trade, eroding their primitive way of life. Colonists then used the trade to control the Indians, he said. "If they acted up, (the colonists) would cut off trade," he said.

Besides the Signal and the county museums, other participants were the Cotton Exchange, Meadow Garden, Fort Discovery, Gertrude Herbert Institute, Lucy C. Laney Museum, Ezekiel Harris House and the Morris Museum of Art.