By Dr. Brent Tharp, Director of Georgia Southern University Museum, SCVB Executive Board Member
Visitors to the coast are often struck by the swift evolution in the landscape. The changing light and tides throughout the day constantly transform the scene. Imagine being able to see, in one place, the dynamic environment of south Georgia change over 75 million years from an ancient ocean sweeping back and forth across the land; to cool woodlands of hemlock and spruce; to vast, warm pine forests. You can see that, and much more, at the Georgia Southern University Museum.
The permanent exhibits and collections of the Georgia Southern University Museum, located on historic Sweetheart Circle, trace the natural and cultural history of Georgia’s coastal plain from the Cretaceous Period to the present through unique fossils, activities, and artifacts. The Museum’s mosasaur, a swimming reptile that ruled the oceans during the age of the dinosaurs, is 26 feet long and one of the most complete specimens in the world. Discovered in nearby Burke County, Georgiacetus Vogtlensis is the most primitive whale fossil ever found in North America. The whale’s four limbs and other features make it an important transition fossil in understanding the evolution of whales from land mammals into the oceans. You can “be a paleontologist” and sift through material from a coastal plain mine to find fossil shark’s teeth and more – and take home what you find! Discover the incredible plants and animals—and first humans–that have made South Georgia home, and hear the incredible story of how they adapted and were changed by the environment.
Special exhibits at the Museum give visitors an understanding of the research completed by Georgia Southern University faculty and students, including work to preserve Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the archaeological discoveries made at a Civil War prison, Camp Lawton. The museum currently hosts Click! The History and Science of Cameras. A collection of historic cameras dating from the turn of the nineteenth century, as well as interactive activities, demonstrate the science behind them. In 2017, the Museum will present The World’s War is Georgia’s War, 1917-1919, an exhibit commemorating the centennial of the First World War and Georgia’s unique role on the battlefield and the home front.
Travelers will also want to visit The Museum on Main at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (SCVB) Regional Visitor Center on Main Street. Exhibits at The Museum on Main are developed in collaboration with the Georgia Southern University Museum and Department of History and the SCVB. GSU Public History graduate students develop yearly exhibits which highlight important stories in regional and local history.
The SCVB assists travelers to find the accommodations, activities, and information they need to enjoy a visit to this special part of the state, and the Museum on Main gives a better understanding of the area’s history and culture. In 2016, visitors will experience an extraordinary collection of colonial Spanish and native artifacts in the exhibit The Spanish in Georgia: A Forgotten History. The establishment of England’s 13th colony in North America was preceded by nearly 200 years of Spanish exploration, settlement and interaction with the Native Americans. An extensive mission system to convert the Native Americans and establish important trade and exchange was established on Georgia’s coast, which archaeologists and historians are rediscovering.
Discovering 75 million years of history from Statesboro is an extraordinary expedition! We invite you to join us on the journey at the Georgia Southern University Museum and the Museum on Main.