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McDuffie Museum lands traveling Smithsonian exhibit

The not-yet renovated McDuffie Museum is thriving and the newest plans include the Smithsonian Institute, according to Mary Anne Coussons, the executive director for Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development.

Last week, Mrs. Coussons received word that the McDuffie Museum has been chosen to host a Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition entitled Key Ingredients.

"You know, it's a big deal. They have to review every application," Mrs. Coussons said. "The exciting part for us is it will give us recognition, and it will give people a reason to believe that we are going to be a very stable institute."

Approximately three months ago, the Museum Board approved the floor plan to renovate the old Sun Trust and First National Bank building on Main Street, and is undergoing a capital campaign to raise one million dollars needed to begin renovation.

"It gives us the kick in the hiney that we need to definitely go forward and get those renovations started," Mrs. Coussons said.

The exhibit is scheduled to be in Thomson from Dec. 13, 2008, until Jan. 25, 2009. Mrs. Coussons said renovations will have to be completed by that time because the exhibit must be in a climate-controlled and secure setting.

Mrs. Coussons applied last September for Thomson to be a host site. The sites are chosen by The Georgia Humanities Council and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Only 12 sites were chosen in Georgia, although "a lot of applications" were received, according to Arden Williams, the program officer for the GHC.

Ms. Williams said the traveling exhibition is part of the Smithsonian Institute's Museum on Main Street program, which focuses on smaller towns with a population of 4,000 to 8,000.

"The whole point is to try to reach communities that wouldn't normally have access to something like this," Ms. Williams said. "So in the selection process, what they looked at were the imaginative ideas on what programs or possibilities the community would use to accompany the exhibit."

Key Ingredients explores the connections between the foods Americans produce, prepare, preserve and present at the table, according to the Smithsonian website. The exhibit addresses farming, table manners, history, markets and kitchen gadgets in a lively presentation that stimulates comparisons of the past and the present.

In her application, Mrs. Coussons said the ideas she listed for the McDuffie Museum were projects that address the obesity of children in the area and work with the local winery and restaurants.

"We have several great restaurants here, and hopefully we can get them involved in the food process. So that's where this one is going," Mrs. Coussons said.

Ms. Williams said she will visit Thomson in 2007 to establish a relationship with the people who will be involved with the exhibit and to see the facility. Mrs. Coussons said she was "upfront" in her application and explained that the museum renovation has not been started and she sent them a copy of the floor plans.

"As the Carpenter's song says, 'We've Only Just Begun,' and that is how I started my application," she said. "I just encouraged them that indeed we will be up and ready, and this is the incentive... to move forward. We can't drag our feet with this one... I mean, who wants the Smithsonian Institute not to come here?"

Web posted on Thursday, January 04, 2007

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