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Consultants present McDuffie Museum plans

Come December 2007, McDuffie County could be the new home of a museum that would share the unique history of the county with a wide variety of visitors.


John Durel speaks during last week's presentation.

The aggressive two-year time table was only part of the comprehensive plan presented by museum consultants John and Anita Durel Thursday at White Columns.

After months of research by the Durels, the Museum Board and other community members gathered to hear their findings. If done correctly, the Durels said, the plan would cost $2 million and include extensive participation from across the county.

"You have the chance to do it right so that not only will people in McDuffie County be proud of it, but others may use it as a model," Mr. Durel told the group.

Through their research, the Durels found that folks in McDuffie County want a museum that would tell the stories of the people in an interesting, inclusive way while honoring their ancestors and informing children of the past.

Another important part of the equation would include the museum sparking downtown revitalization in Thomson due to its location in the former SunTrust and First National Bank Building on Main Street.

"The center of those plans is right here," Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said, referring to the museum's place within the multiple revitalization projects. "We do this like it ought to be done and it will spur all those other things."

Within the master plan presented by the Durels, a full-time museum director would coordinate events for children and adults in the community as well as tourists. A committee would also be set up to determine if donated artifacts were worthy of being accepting into the museum's collection.

The exhibit plan calls for multi-media displays on famous people from McDuffie County such as Blind Willie McTell and Tom Watson; the importance of the land; each of the different communities within the county; how the county has adapted over the years to things like the railroad and Thomson Company; the impact of wars and the military; the importance of churches and families, and other displays.

A key component would also be a section on the oral history of the area. Mr. Durel expects the gathering of stories for inclusion in the museum to be a community-wide project that would not only get people involved but also make for a compelling exhibit.

The plan has spurred some excitement within the Museum Board and its supporters who can see the end in sight despite the task of raising between $775,000 and $2 million.

"It's an exceptional plan that is workable," said Mary Anne Coussons, director of the non-profit Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development. "... Even though $2 million does seem like a lot of money, everyone is saying We can do it.'"

The Museum Board still has to formally approve the master plan. Once that is done, Board Member Epp Wilson will get the financial campaign underway to try and raise the money for renovating the building, designing the exhibits and establishing an endowment that could fund the museum for years to come.

Web posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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