The ever-changing Georgia Writers Museum reached another milestone on Wednesday evening, May 19. Guests for a special open house were treated to a completely redesigned museum that featured the unveiling of three bronze busts by the renowned sculptor Monika Moser.
It had the spirit of the envelope at the Academy Awards ceremony. And Ms. Moser, arriving in a red convertible, was on hand to accept well wishes from the adoring audience. The busts of the three main stars of the museum – Alice Walker, Joel Chandler Harris and Flannery O’Connor – were weeks in the making at the Moser studio.
One motivation for the redesigned museum was the purchase of the museum buildings (three in total). While original space will remain dedicated to an array of permanent and changing exhibits, the new space will feature a coffee shop, retreat for writers and readers and an expanded community gathering space for classes, workshops and events.
With the original building rearranged, the galleries completely immerse the visitor in the life history of the writer. The newest exhibit features nationally acclaimed poet Sidney Lanier. When the Sidney Lanier Home and Museum in Macon recently closed, many of the artifacts were loaned to Georgia Writers Museum. The display outlines Lanier’s 39-year history. His silver flute, portable writing disk, alligator slippers, calling card case, letters, books and photos are among the items on display.
The Joel Chandler Harris exhibit is updated to include his longtime professional relationship with Georgia’s first poet laureate, Frank Lebby Stanton, from their work together at the Savannah Morning News and the Atlanta Constitution. One guest was surprised to learn that Harris had written so many books other than the Uncle Remus tales for which he is most famous. In addition, the museum now has on display original copies of The Countryman, the newspaper on which Harris worked as a boy living at nearby Turnwold Plantation.
The new Harris exhibit spawned a display about “The History of Printing,” which features an extensive collection of typewriters (from 1900 to 1980), a turn-of-the-century mimeograph machine invented by Thomas Edison and an 1890s book press. An added feature includes stories of the specific typewriters used by the three famous local authors.
Alice Walker comes alive through an exhibit designed by Pellom McDaniels, Emory University’s Curator of African American collections for the Rose Library. Her history is told through narrative and photos, highlighted by an original portrait painted by local artist Chris Cook. On a screen in the exhibit, visitors can hear her read one of her many poems. Alice’s exhibit is bookended with the Flannery O’Connor exhibit by a special new display about Yaddo, the New York writer’s retreat they both attended at different times. Guests in the O’Connor exhibit can view video of Flannery at five years old, teaching her chicken to walk backward. The black and white movie played in theatres throughout the country in 1932.
If you have not visited the museum since its reopening on April 22, you have not seen it. Much has changed; much more is in the works. Excellent museums are always changing, and that perspective is no different for Georgia Writers Museum. You will leave inspired, educated and entertained.