After closing for three years to allow for renovations to the historic building in which it resides, the Georgia Southern University Museum has re-opened and is now better than ever. Under the direction of Dr. Brent Tharp, the museum features local artifacts and other rarities in both natural and cultural history that are sure to interest adults and children alike. The museum is located on Sweetheart Circle and is truly a hidden gem in Statesboro.
Stephanie Lukowski, Curator of Education for the museum, is excited about the renovations, which improved not only the building but also the exhibits themselves.
“We were closed for about three years because our ceiling needed renovations, and that was also during COVID times,” she said. “We decided to make the best of a bad situation and brought in a professional exhibit designer so that when we re-opened with our renovations, we’d also have brand new exhibits.”
The two permanent exhibit halls are Uncharted Worlds: The Natural History of Georgia’s Coastal Plain in the Delma and Beverly Presley Gallery and Charted Worlds: The Cultural History of Georgia’s Coastal Plain in the Jack and Addie D. Averitt Gallery.
“We have historians and paleontologists on staff, so we cover everything,” Lukowski said. “The museum serves the community by giving a context to where we live – from 78 million years ago to today.”
The natural history hall contains the famous 78-million-year-old mosasaur, and the renovations widened the tunnel through which visitors can crawl to view the bones up close. And while the mosasaur is typically the “main attraction” for visitors, the room is full of fossils and artifacts from the Bulloch County area that will fascinate visitors, along with interactive games, multiple fossil “dig pits,” and replicas of other ancient creatures.
“We have a good mix of real fossil materials and replicas that can be more hands-on,” Lukowski said, noting that children do have the option to touch and explore the replicas.
Across the lobby, visitors will find the cultural history hall, which focuses on the settlement and early proliferation of people in our region, the Coastal Plain.
On display there are Native American artifacts, a 200-year-old canoe, an Ogeechee River boat, artifacts from when slavery supported the region, turpentining equipment, beautiful maps, artwork by naturalist John Abbot from the late 1700s to early 1800s, and one of only five known pre-Civil War cotton gins.
“We’re excited to have people from the community come and see historical items from the Coastal Plain,” Lukowski said. “It’s everyone’s shared history.”
Changing Exhibit Gallery
In addition to the two main exhibit halls, visitors will find a changing exhibit at the back of the museum. This gallery exhibit will feature something new each year and is a university-wide project.
The museum puts out a call to professors who would like to feature their research, and senior graphic design students compete for a chance to design the exhibit. This is a mutually beneficial project, shining a light on current university research and giving design students real world experience.
While the exhibits at the front of the museum permanently feature the cultural and natural history of our area, the back exhibit hall can feature anything. The current exhibit is Pollen Nation, curated by Dr. Alan Harvey, professor in the Department of Biology.
The display features information about pollen, pollination, and how both affect humans. The museum staff recently installed some fun and interactive hands-on portions, as well, such as viewing pollen under a microscope, a puzzle of plant parts, a “Plinko”-style pollination game, and a matching game.
Something for everyone!
The museum truly has something to interest visitors of all ages. Lukowski and the staff have worked hard to incorporate fun ways for people to enjoy and maximize their visit.
“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “We try to make sure everything is accessible and interesting to a wide variety of ages. It’s important to give people of all ages a way to engage in the exhibits.”
For example, younger visitors will find a scavenger hunt at the entry, which they can complete for a prize. Lukowski said this is a great way to explore all the key spots in all three of the exhibit rooms.
In addition, there is a field observation activity in the cultural history hall, which allows visitors of all ages to study their favorite object in the museum more closely. A notebook filled with these observations from previous visitors is out for visitors to view, as well.
“It’s always fun to see what everyone’s favorite object in the museum is,” Lukowski said.
The museum will continue to expand in the coming years, with exciting events, new exhibit elements, and the return of the beloved gift shop. Lukowski, who has been at the museum for about a year, invites the community to come out and see all the amazing things the exhibits have to offer.
Plan Your Visit
The Georgia Southern Museum is located in the historic Rosenwald Building on Sweetheart Circle at 2142 Southern Drive.
The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and on Sunday from 2pm to 5pm. It is closed Mondays, Saturdays, and all university holidays. Currently, the museum is requesting donations in lieu of a set entry fee; however, in the near future, the admission will be $4 per person, with children under 3 free.
Free parking is available for visitors directly in front of the museum along Sweetheart Circle. Those with smartphones can download the university’s parking app, and the museum will provide a code for four hours of free parking. For those without a smartphone, the museum has paper parking passes available for free, as well. (Just ask at the front desk!)
In addition to the museum’s main campus, there are also free exhibits around town.
The Museum on Main is located within the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau at 222 S. Main St. Curated by Dr. Tharp’s graduate students in the Public History Program, the current exhibit is Manufacturing Music: 140 Years of Gretsch Legacy, featuring information about the development of guitars and drums created by the Gretsch Manufacturing Company from its founding in 1883 to modern day.
The Nessmith-Lane Building on the Georgia Southern campus is currently featuring An Inspiring Past, A Promising Future: The Presley Exhibition, which traces the historical transformation of Georgia Southern University from its founding in 1906 to the present.
Finally, the Bulloch County Annex at 115 N. Main St. contains a permanent exhibit with changing elements titled Community and Conflict: Bulloch County’s Military Heritage, which traces Bulloch Countians’ involvement in U.S. wars from the Revolution to the present and preserves the names of those who died in service to their country since World War I.
Check the operating hours of each location for visiting times.
For more information on the Georgia Southern Museum, please visit the museum’s website and social media accounts.
Shark Week is coming…
The museum is excited to announce that it will celebrate Shark Week in July of this year. The museum’s regular exhibits will be open, but lots of exciting shark-themed additions will be available, too. These will include special guest speakers, a shark-themed scavenger hunt, hands-on activities for kids, and more. Stay tuned to the museum website and social media for more details!