Georgia’s stone industry takes center stage in Tellus’ exhibit

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Striving to highlight the state’s “contribution to the building stone industry,” Tellus Science Museum is presenting “Georgia Stone: Building a Nation.” Opened Feb. 9, the special exhibit will be displayed in The Vault through Jan. 5, 2020.

“My staff worked very hard to research this exhibit — from visiting mines and quarries, to diving into archives to dig up a lot of information on the early days of quarrying,” said Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria. “I was very pleased at how it all came together. Although I was marginally involved with this exhibit, I was able to review all the reader panels. I learned a lot of interesting factoids and was amazed by the impact Georgia's marble and granite industry had on a national and international scale. Being originally from Cuba, I was particularly interested to learn that the capitol building in Havana — El Capitolio — is made of Stone Mountain granite.

“I hope that our visitors gain a better appreciation of Georgia's contribution to the building stone industry. Most visitors to Stone Mountain do not realize that the park once had many active granite quarries, or that Georgia marble was used to construct [many] iconic buildings across the country. There is also a real neat interactive that demonstrates how marble blocks are cut.”

An expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum, Tellus opened at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville in January 2009 and became a Smithsonian affiliate during its first year.

Along with the Collins Family My Big Backyard, the 120,000-square-foot museum is comprised of three other main galleries — Millar Science in Motion, Weinman Mineral Gallery and the Fossil Gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium, solar house and observatory.

“This exhibit showcases marble and granite from Georgia,” said Ryan Roney, curator for Tellus. “They have been used throughout the nation to build both infrastructure and notable, important public and government facilities and monuments. Examples include the Lincoln Memorial, the Field Museum and various state capitol buildings.

“… The exhibit features timelines with photos of marble and granite production in Georgia and stone usage throughout the state and nationally. It also includes examples of raw and finished material and tools and methods used to quarry Georgia stone. We feature marble from Tate and Jasper in Pickens County with material and information donated by Polycor — current owners of Georgia Marble Co. — and Blue Ridge Marble & Granite Co. Granite on exhibit comes from several locations from around the state, including Elberton, Stone Mountain and Lithonia.”

For Roney, two of the most fascinating components of “Georgia Stone: Building a Nation” are its images and interactive display.

“We found a rich, well-documented history of the architectural use of Georgia stone at historical societies and the Kennesaw State University Library Archives,” Roney said. “We chose to feature both well-known and local buildings. Over 100 photos in the exhibit showcase just some of the buildings that have been made of Georgia stone.

“Aside from this pictorial history, we want people to experience how these rocks look and feel. We have a large slab from a marble block that visitors can touch showing the drill holes used to split the blocks apart. We also have an interactive exhibit where visitors can use a modified diamond-wire saw to understand how stone blocks are cut.”

For more information about Tellus and its events, call 770-606-5700 or visit http://tellusmuseum.org.