With its award reading, "for preserving the 1869 Courthouse and redesigning the exhibits to vibrantly depict the story of Bartow County and northwest Georgia," the Bartow History Museum was named the Institution of the Year.
"We're just very excited to be recognized by the state association and our peers," said BHM Director Trey Gaines, who accepted the award at the GAMG's awards luncheon Friday in Milledgeville. "A lot of hard work and time and effort went into the project to move the museum and redesign the exhibits. [So] we're excited to be awarded this honor.
"It's been a dream for many years for the museum to be in the 1869 Courthouse. So to finally be here, we're very excited [and] we've had a great first year here, lots of great comments from visitors and good reception at programs. Being in this building has allowed us to do all of our programming in the museum. It's also allowed us to have larger exhibits, larger programs. And the building itself, I think, is a draw and attraction for people. The building itself is very much a part of our history."
Serving as Bartow's courthouse from 1869 to 1902, the two-story brick building was utilized for a variety of purposes in the 1900s, some of which include a roller skating rink, furniture store and warehouse. Located at 4 E. Church St., the building under the Church Street Bridge was acquired by the city of Cartersville in 1995 and was renovated with $1.7 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds.
Since Dec. 10, 2010, the old courthouse has housed the BHM's gift shop, multi-purpose room, and permanent and temporary exhibits. Divided into six galleries, the permanent exhibits include "A Sense of Place," "Bartow Beginnings," "Community Champions," "People at Work," "The Coming War" and "Toward New Horizons." Formed in the late 1980s, the BHM welcomed more than 14,000 visitors last year.
"We are very pleased to present this award to a very deserving recipient," said GAMG President Brent Tharp in a news release. "Our members represent a good cross section of the museums and galleries in Georgia's communities, large and small. We are happy to honor institutions, staff members, volunteers, patrons, exhibits and special projects that have excelled in providing inspiring programs and leadership."
Tellus nets three GAMG awards
During the awards luncheon, Tellus Science Museum also won three accolades: Museum Volunteer Award, Patron Award and Business/Corporation Award.
"This is a premier organization of museums in Georgia," Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria said about GAMG, a private, nonprofit that consists of more than 200 members across Georgia. "So they really look at every museum in the state. So it's very gratifying to be recognized three times with three awards."
Among those recognized were John Trimble, Museum Volunteer Award, for designing and installing Tellus' mineral exhibit cases; Martin Zinn Expositions LLC, Business/Corporation Award, for its donation of more than 200 high-quality mineral specimens over the past four years; and the McNitt family, Patron Award.
"The McNitt family was represented by Chuck McNitt," Santamaria said. "The McNitts have been long-time supporters of the museum, for almost 15 years. Chuck's oldest son, Neil, and his wife, Judy, and their three children all died in the 1996 ValuJet crash over the Florida Everglades -- Flight 592. Neil was in the mining industry. He was a geologist and Judy was a teacher. So when the McNitts approached us -- 'What can we do to honor and have a memorial of our family?' -- they became supporters of the museum.
"They became supporters of an initial expansion that we put on hold that eventually became Tellus," he said, adding in the museum's Weinman Mineral Gallery, an exhibit highlighting the mining industry is named in the family's honor. "So over the years, they've been supporting us in a lot of these ways and not just financially, but supporting us by attending events, by being here, supporting us in the things that we do, [such as] by being boosters. Chuck was asking for newsletters and brochures so he could pass [them] around. So he's supporting us in many different ways."
Along with The Weinman Mineral Gallery, the 120,000-square-foot museum at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville is comprised of three other main galleries -- The Fossil Gallery, Science In Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard -- a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. A Smithsonian affiliate, Tellus has attracted more than 550,000 visitors since opening in January 2009.
"We're really blessed to have such a broad level of support," Santamaria said. "But these three individuals just really rise to the top because it's not just a one-time support it's support over the years. They all have made a significant impact. This museum would not be what it is without them."