The History: Top 5 Moments in 2020 for NCHS
By Emily Kimbell, Newnan-Coweta Historical Society
It is finally a new year!
Sometimes it feels like we have lived several lifetimes during the past year, and it certainly has been one for the history books. The new year naturally brings a time for setting goals and looking forward to upcoming changes, but also gives a time for reflection about the past year.
When thinking about the year 2020, it can be difficult not to focus on the challenging aspects of the year. After all, we all lived through a global pandemic! However, the year 2020 also brought really wonderful moments into the lives of our community members, businesses, and organizations. For the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, the year of 2020 brought a year of unexpected growth.
As we start the new year, I want to reflect on the “recent” history of the organization I am so very proud to oversee. Here are the top five moments of the year for the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society!
5. NCHS Goes Digital
COVID-19 completely changed the way professionals approached managing a museum. Group tours, visitors, events, and in-person experiences — things that serve as the backbone of the museum operation plan — could no longer be held. In response to the in-person closing of the McRitchie-Hollis museum and the mandatory cancellation of events, the NCHS staff quickly created and implemented digital education opportunities, which included weekly online tours and digital history lessons. In addition, the staff created an adult “summer school” archives introduction course held via Google Classroom and held the lecture series events via Facebook Live. While our pre-planned events had to be postponed or canceled; the pandemic gave us the opportunity to grow our impact digitally and gave us the challenge of making our organization and museum more digitally present. In response, NCHS became one of the most digitally interactive non-profits in the community during this time.
4. Boy Scouts Makeover Depot
Cambron (Cam) and Jackson (Jack) Berry, Eagle Scout members of Troop 41 of the Flint River Council, worked throughout 2020 to renovate the Historic Train Depot. The brothers proposed two separate projects for the society. Cam’s project focused on improving the landscaping of the area next to the railroad tracks by removing all weeds, planting plants, and spreading pine straw. Jack’s projects focused on improving the appearance of the railway platform by repainting the scaffolding and building four benches for visitor use. The two projects took over 224 hours and 24 volunteers to complete.
3. The McRitchie-Hollis Museum Collaborates with Ruth Hill
The museum’s special 2020 “Newnan Now and Then: Roaring Back Into the 20s” temporary exhibit featured a special addition from Ruth Hill students. NCHS collaborated with Ruth Hill Elementary School and other elementary students throughout the area to feature self-portraits in the exhibit.
2. NCHS receives donation from Bankshaven Estates
In May 2020, NCHS received a sizable donation from Ed Brasch, executor of the William Banks estate and cousin of the late Banks. The donation size amassed to over thirteen boxes of materials. The newly minted William Banks collection includes family photos, scrapbooks, yearbooks, and paintings along with plans and journals related to Banks’ famous gardens. Of particular note, NCHS received copies of Banks’ original play manuscripts, both published and unpublished. The family collection was just one of several donations made to NCHS throughout the year.
1. Permanent Installations Begins at McRitchie-Hollis Museum
In keeping with Edgar Hollis’ wishes to create a “high-quality” museum dedicated to his parents, NCHS and the McRitchie-Hollis Museum is redesigning its permanent exhibits in order to better serve the needs of the local community and serve as the premiere educational facility regarding Coweta County history. NCHS is currently working on Phase One of the project, which will see permanent exhibits installed in the current home’s breakfast room, powder room, and lobby. Installation of permanent exhibits have already begun with the exhibit entitled “Meet the Locals: Local Collections.” The space will serve as tribute to our benefactor Edgar Hollis, featuring letters, correspondence, and artifacts from his collection as well as featuring other local collectors and the collections from current community members.
This year was challenging but a great one! I hope you all have had your top five great, historic moments. Happy New Year!
Newnan-native, Emily Kimbell is the director of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and McRitchie-Hollis Museum. Emily is currently finishing her doctoral studies at Georgia State University, where she also teaches English Composition courses and is an active member of her community often seen on stage in local theatre productions and writing for local media outlets.