The Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries (GAMG), a statewide museum professional group, chose Milledgeville’s Old Governor’s Mansion as “Institution of the Year” in January. GAMG board members and museum professionals rated the Mansion No. 1 out of over 200 Georgia museums.
Matt Davis, director of historic museums at GC, explained that the Mansion was rated for overall excellence and for a thoughtful and respectful interpretation of important aspects of 19th century history.
“We were very humbled to receive this recognition,” Davis said.
Over the past 180 years, the Mansion has survived some of Georgia’s most chaotic time periods. The Mansion housed Georgia’s governors from 1839 to 1868, through the antebellum period and the Civil War, until it was claimed by General Sherman in 1864.
After Reconstruction, the Mansion was given to Georgia Normal & Industrial College (now GC) in 1889 and has remained in its possession ever since. In 2001, the Mansion underwent a three year long, $9.5 million restoration to return it to its antebellum glory.
Museum docent Emma Smith gives a tour to a cohort of education students.
“We don’t have any of the house-off limits,” said junior Emma Smith, a history major and museum docent. “We really invite people to go into every room, to get up close and to really experience the house as it was in the 1800’s.”
Central to the Mansion’s success has been the staff’s accuracy and creativity in preserving the Mansion’s history.
Through programming, community outreach, exhibitions and years of research, the Mansion became a Smithsonian affiliate in 2015 and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
“A lot of historic house museums will only tell one side of the story, and we really try to incorporate different viewpoints,” said Mansion curator Molly Randolph. “I think that leads to an interpretation that is multi-layered and that appeals to a lot of different people.”
In the past year, the Mansion has exhibited men’s and women’s 19th century fashion and has hosted its annual “Doll Wedding and High Tea” event in April. Last October, the Mansion hosted its first Murder Mystery dinner, which was very successful, and the staff plans to bring the event back in 2018.
“Everyone on staff, from our docents to the director, is willing to pitch in,” Randolph said. “Everyone has a positive attitude. I think that lays a foundation for hard work and good events to spring out of.”
Currently, the Mansion is preparing for the grand opening of Art Professor Ernesto Gomez’s exhibition, “A Space for Sound,” on Feb. 8. The exhibit will feature audio recorded from the Mansion which has been made into a “sound sculpture” for visitors to hear. The sounds will be played in the rotunda of the Mansion until May.
“The millisecond that we stop being engaged or trying to learn and do something new here, we are starting to fail,” Davis said. “So it is incumbent upon us to continue to move forward.”
For all GC students and faculty, admission into the Mansion is free with a Bobcat card. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with tours beginning on the hour.