Some McDuffie County residents are determined to preserve the rich history and heritage of the area for others to enjoy, and their efforts are becoming reality as plans for the McDuffie Museum begin to take shape.
Supporters are currently collecting items to be part of the museum, which will be in the old SunTrust Bank and the old Thomson Drug Company located on the corner of First Ave. and Main Street in Thomson. SunTrust donated both buildings, which are ideally located in the middle of town and already have vaults that can be used to preserve rare, aged documents and artifacts, said Rusty Lovelace, president of the museum board.
Museum supporters are hoping to gather more documents, maps, photos and other artifacts from the year 1500 to the present. During the 1500s, Native Americans lived in the county, and traces of their presence are numerous in the area, Mr. Lovelace said. However, he expects the majority of museum displays to date from the mid 1800s to the present.
The museum board members and supporters are accepting donations of items such as old documents, photos, maps, books, clothing, toys, tools or anything else that pertains to how people in the area lived.
Plans are for displays to progress in chronological order, providing a walking tour of the history and growth of the area starting from about 1500. The focus of many displays will be a history of McDuffie County since its formation in 1870. There will also be changing displays, and special exhibits periodically, Mr. Lovelace said.
The museum should inspire visitors to cherish their heritage and promote preservation and restoration for future generations.
"We are proud of our history here. We want the museum to be learning center for all ages. We want young people to know they have a proud heritage, and we want to show them where they come from." Mr. Lovelace said.
Retired educator Lynne Entrekin agreed that including youth is essential to the success of the museum.
"This will give them a sense of belonging to something beyond what they see today. It will bring history to life, and let them grab some of the rich past the area has," said Ms. Entrekin, who worked in McDuffie County Schools and for the department of education in the state innovation center.
The most successful museums have displays that are inviting to youth, she said.
"They like hands on activities, changing displays, and live demonstrations."
Museums that appeal most to youth offer unique ways to learn about the past and also have fun. For example, some museums have period clothing students can try on, or musical instruments they can play, or dolls they can pick up.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be the old doll. It can be a model or a reproduction."
When youth are interested, attendance will naturally grow.
"The kids are going to bring their parents," she predicted.She is looking forward to the museum opening which may occur in the first half of 2005.
"Every year we wait we lose another group of kids who could get turned on to history," she said.
Plans for the museum began in August 2000 when a group of local individuals dedicated to preserving history met to appoint a board and to arrange initial groundwork. The museum, which will be privately governed and funded, will rely on volunteers to help with daily operations when it becomes operational.
To donate items for the museum, or for more information, contact Rusty Lovelace at 595-4967.