The Georgia Writers Museum is excited to announce the hire of their new executive director, Melissa Swindell.
The Georgia Writers Museum has been led by an all-volunteer board of directors for the past 6 years, successfully establishing itself as a vital part of Georgia’s rich literary heritage. People from around the state attend literary events such as the Meet the Author lecture series and Writers Workshops, and close to 600 from around the world celebrated Alice Walker’s 75th birthday last year.
Recently, they purchased the building that the museum occupies on the square in downtown Eatonton.
“We have accomplished a lot since our founding six years ago,” said Lou Benjamin, president of the museum’s board of directors, “but we have more work to do. I speak on behalf of our Board and Founders when I say we are excited to welcome Melissa and her experience in museum management that we are seeking. Definitely a game changer for us!”
Swindell is a native of Decatur who earned her BA in history at Georgia State University where she now sits on the Board of Advocates for the university’s library. Swindell continued her education in Washington, D.C. where she earned her MA in American history from the George Washington University and a MA in museum studies and non-profit management from Johns Hopkins University. During her time in D.C., she was a research associate for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
“Working for the Smithsonian was a dream come true,” Swindell said, “especially when I was assigned to research the history of chocolate.”
Following her time with the Smithsonian, Swindell returned home and began working with local museums to increase community events. She first served as director of historic resources for Heritage Sandy Springs, and in 2017 she became executive director with The Wren’s Nest, the historic Atlanta home of Joel Chandler Harris who preserved the Brer Rabbit folktales.
For the past year, Swindell has worked with local museums providing assistance with fundraising, artifact preservation, and strategic planning. “I’m not sure anyone has ever admitted to enjoying strategy and planning, but when it comes to museums I enjoy helping organizations set a foundation on which they can grow and build for years to come,” Swindell said. “I also love participating in community events, gathering with longtime friends of the museum, and welcoming new members. I am excited to meet everyone in my new central-Georgia community.”
Georgia Writers Museum was founded in 2014 as the first cultural attraction established by Lake Country Arts to advance economic development of Eatonton’s Putnam County through the celebration of arts and culture, thereby increasing tourism throughout the region.
The museum was founded on the lives and stories of the three nationally acclaimed writers who were truly locals from Eatonton: Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Flannery O’Connor (A Good Man is Hard to Find), and Joel Chandler Harris (Uncle Remus Tales). In 2016, Georgia Writers Museum entered a partnership with the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library to host the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame exhibit. Nine out of the current 69 inductees are from within 30 miles of Eatonton. “There must be something in the soil,” Benjamin said.