Online local history exhibits share untold stories of three Georgia communities

July 13, 2021
CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, Georgia Public Library Service, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA–Georgia Public Library Service is pleased to announce the availability of three digital exhibits on the history and culture of Georgia: “Albany, Georgia’s Courthouses,” from the Dougherty County Public Library; and from two member libraries of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, “Ballard Normal School, Macon, GA: African American Student Life in the 1930s,” from the Washington Memorial Library; and “Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, GA: One Town’s Unique Experience with Mental Health History,” from the Twin Lakes Library in partnership with Georgia College. 

Each exhibit tells the story of a little-known aspect of community history particular to a geographic area, using openly reusable digitized materials made available through the Digital Library of Georgia. While digitization provides free and open access to materials that might otherwise be challenging to find or fragile to handle, digital exhibits give library users the tools they need to make sense of these materials in context. “Great access makes space for greater understanding,” said program director Angela Stanley. “These exhibits help to place Georgia’s local history in the context of state and national history.”

Albany, Georgia’s Courthouses” tells the history of social change in Albany through the lens of the county courthouse, arguing that the building itself is central to community life and a society governed by the rule of law. 

In “Ballard Normal School: Student Life in the 1930s,” exhibit curators explore African American education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the experiences of private school students at the historically Black Ballard Normal School in Macon, Georgia. 

And in “Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, GA,” viewers are guided through the complex and often difficult history of mental health treatment in the United States, and the impact the institution – variously named the Georgia State Sanitarium, Milledgeville State Hospital, and Central State Hospital – had on the city of Milledgeville and services for people with mental health disorders. 

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a digital exhibit must be worth ten thousand words,” said Exhibit Curator Muriel Jackson of the Middle Georgia Regional Library System. “These exhibits will represent our communities for years to come.”

The exhibits are the final product of a pilot program led by Georgia Public Library Service designed to build library capacity for planning and curation of local history exhibits. They were built using the Omeka S platform, a free, open source content management system used by libraries, archives, and schools to organize, curate, and display digital content online. Participants will continue to have access to Omeka S, as well as the tools and resources provided throughout the program, so that they may continue to create local exhibits.

DigEx Advisory Team member Gayle Schechter emphasised the importance of supporting institutionally diverse digital exhibits practitioners: “By providing training in using the Omeka platform, as well as best practices for writing and creating digital exhibits, programs like the DigEx pilot provide public library staff with the confidence and expertise to create compelling exhibits showcasing the unique and varied histories of Georgia’s communities. Stories that may have otherwise remained unknown beyond a small number of local residents can now be shared across the state of Georgia, and beyond.”

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Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) empowers libraries to improve the lives of all Georgians by encouraging reading, literacy, and education through the continuing support and improvement of public libraries. GPLS is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This project is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through GPLS. www.georgialibraries.org 

Dougherty County Public Library serves the residents of Dougherty County, Georgia, and strives to strengthen our community by inspiring, encouraging, and supporting life-long learning for all.  

Georgia College’s Russell Library prepares inquisitive academics to thrive in an information-intensive and diverse global community by identifying, collecting, and providing access to resources, developing learning-centered services and by providing instruction and expert support in a learning-rich environment. By creating a culture of innovation and a space for collaboration and development, Library faculty and staff seek to impart the skills necessary for success.

The Middle Georgia Regional Library System’s mission is to connect all people to the information necessary to improve their lives through excellent services and materials. Our core values are to provide convenient and equal access for all; maintaining good stewardship of taxpayer resources; using highly skilled library personnel; and ensuring that every user leaves with a good impression.  

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