August 9th, 2017 went down in Georgia College history with the formal gifting of Andalusia to the college from the foundation running the house. It makes this the fourth historic property listed in the National Register of Historic Places that the GCSU Foundation now owns. Others include The Old Governor’s Mansion and Atkinson Hall. The Milledgeville Historic district, which encompasses much of the college, received national register status in 1972. Since the gifting of the property, Andalusia has been closed for restoration. Matt Davis, the director of Historic Museums for Georgia College, and his staff have restored Andalusia to the mid-20th century style home in which Flannery O’Connor lived and wrote. They want visitors to not only get a better understanding of Flannery’s influences and farm life, but also feel like they are a part of that time period as well. The plans include much more than preserving and restoring the buildings. There is also discussion of additions, such as a visitor center and an education building close to the farm’s entrance.
The oral history collection at Georgia College has been around for many years, but it is a little hard to locate as it is really not one collection, but a bunch of smaller collections. Further, outside of Dr. Mary Magoulick’s GC2Y course, no oral histories of community members have been added to Special Collections’ holdings in years. Many people miss that these are available, since the transcripts and recordings are not available online.
Last fall, Catherine and I worked with a collection called Tales from the Back Stoop, digitizing the files on tapes and transferring them to DuraCloud storage, which is our cloud-based “dark archive.” A dark archive means that this is where we store preservation copies of files online. In an archive, digital files often have an access copy, which is the one patrons use, and a preservation copy, which is largely unused in hopes that it will have less degradation over time. Eventually, we will provide an access copy of all of the Tales from the Back Stoop files on the library’s website.
Tales from the Back Stoop was created over a decade ago by several members of the local community who interviewed other community members and then turned those memories into a play. Some of those newly-digitized oral histories were used in a video for the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast. From that exposure, there was renewed interest in the Tales from the Back Stoop project, particularly in forming a new group of community members that would focus on interviewing members of the African-American community in Milledgeville. The new project would consist of setting up interviews and asking the interviewees not only their opinions on how the city of Milledgeville and the world have changed over the years, but also have them discuss specific events that have not been captured in traditional news sources, like the city’s paper. Since many of the target interviewees are at an older age, the task to update the collection must be done in a timely manner.
One of the longtime collections most recently made more publicly accessible in Special Collections are the U. Erwin Sibley papers. This collection came to Special Collections in two parts. The majority of the collection was transferred to Georgia College from the Mary Vinson Public Library in 1982, and the addition of the Sibley & Sibley series was donated from a family member in 2004. There’s a more than 30-year gap from the time the papers were acquired to the time we put the finding aid online, but for good reason! Due to the nature of some files, they needed intensive review, so it was all hands on deck to make this more accessible to our researchers.
For those unfamiliar with Sibley, he was born and raised in Baldwin County, where he was widely known and respected in his practice of law. He attended Georgia Military College and graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Laws in 1910. A year later, he formed a law firm called Sibley & Sibley with his brother, and in 1914 went on to become the secretary of W.H. Fish, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. In 1930, he and associate Marion Allen created the firm Allen & Sibley, a firm that significantly influenced life in Milledgeville, making Sibley a foremost member of his profession.
On February 12, 1733, the colony of Georgia was founded. Today, we usually celebrate Georgia Day on the 12th, but occasionally, it can be observed the weekend before. Whether on the 12th or around the 12th, this is a time when those of us in archives and special collections enjoy highlighting some of our Georgia history collections.
One cannot tell the story of the State of Georgia without including the City of Milledgeville. It became the state capital in 1807 when the legislature met for the first time in the incomplete and under construction Capital Building. Now part of Georgia Military College, it was once the center of political life for the state.
Jared Irwin was the first to serve as governor in the new state capital. Starting in 1806, he served until 1809 with three of his four-year term taking place in Milledgeville. Following Irwin was David Brydie Mitchell. Mitchell would serve the first of his terms from 1809 to 1813. His second term would come only a few years later after defeating Peter Early, Governor of Georgia from 1813- 1815, in his re-election bid. Mitchell served from 1815 to 1817. From this decade, one of the artifacts here in Special Collections is the book, Laws of the State of Georgia, cataloging everything passed by the legislature during this time. Some the issues they dealt with consisted of appointing trustees to the private academies that existed in towns and counties around the state, passing laws to help alleviate debt issues that faced many Georgians, laws that either raised taxes or relieved citizens from having to pay certain taxes, and even addressed the penal code.
Following Mitchell, the state capital remained in Milledgeville until 1868. One of the most important events in the Antebellum Era for many people at the time in Georgia and in the South took place in Milledgeville.
On January 19, 1861, three days after the State legislature convened, the assembly voted for the secession of Georgia from the Union of the United States. The future of Georgia was irretrievably changed. On February 4th, each state in what would become the Confederacy sent members to the “Congress of the Sovereign and Independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana” in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia elected two men, Alexander Stephens and Eugenius Nesbit, to represent them. At this gathering, they wrote the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, which was officially adopted on February 8th.
This document was the precursor to what became the Confederate States Constitution. It would only be in place for year before the official Constitution was adopted. A copy of this provisional constitution resides in here in Special Collections.
The First Confederate States Congress took place from February 18, 1862 through to February 18, 1864. It was a bicameral legislature that lasted during the first two years of Jefferson Davis’ presidency and was seated in Richmond, Virginia. In Special Collections, we have a book of the statutes passed by the First Congress at their third session in 1863. These are the laws, acts, and resolutions that were passed in an effort to both establish and run their government. They set up tax laws, government departments, and resolutions of thanks to officers and government officials. This congress was disbanded in 1864 and then re-seated in a second congress that lasted until 1865 when the Confederacy was falling apart and the Civil War was coming to a close.
A few years after the end of the Confederacy, the capital would leave Milledgeville and head to the growing city of Atlanta. Charles Johnson Jenkins was the last governor to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville. When he was elected, Rufus Bullock became the first governor to take up residence in a large Victorian home in Atlanta, the same one where Governor Nathan Deal resides today. Milledgeville would no longer be at the center the political events and life in Georgia. However, this city played a pivotal role in events that forever changed the future of the state and continue to haunt us.
Happy belated Georgia Day, y’all!
On Thursday, February 15th, Ina Dillard Russell Library held its first African American Read-In, an opportunity that invites students, faculty, and staff to read from the works of their favorite authors and some of the most remarkable African Americans in our history. It is meant to serve as a sort of “open mic” celebration, where participants are encouraged to recite and/or perform pieces of creative nonfiction, fiction, spoken word, poetry, etc. About 70 students, as well as numerous faculty and staff, participated in the event.
Special Collections was asked to create a small exhibit to supplement the read-in, to create a display for students to not only to consider, but interact with. We decided to set our focus on three local and influential African American individuals — Former Georgia State Senator Floyd L. Griffin Jr.; Reverend Wilkes B. Flagg, founder of Flagg Chapel Baptist Church; and well-renowned activist and author, Alice Walker. For each, we picked memorabilia, documents, and other artifacts from each respective collection that represented their greatest and most stirring accomplishments. Because the exhibit operates on a small scale, narrowing the materials proved difficult. Continue reading “The Exhibit for the First Annual African American Read-In”
You first heard of W.J. Usery, Jr. last spring when several of us in Special Collections drove out to the former Secretary of Labor’s estate to collect some of his materials. I wrote a blog post on what it means to do an “archival appraisal.” We spent a morning sorting through memorabilia, packaging picture frames, and cataloguing information we would need after acquiring his collection.
This semester we’ve cleared shelf space within the archive to make room for Usery’s dense and impressive collection. We joke that he is becoming this academic year’s James C. Bonner, meaning we expect Usery materials to pop up well after we’ve closed each box and considered the collection finished. Not unlike Floyd Griffin, a phrase Brendan and I have come to use quite frequently while cataloguing Usery’s materials is “this man did everything.” From being one of the greatest allies and progressive forces for labor union workers to mediating some of the United States’ biggest disputes, Usery’s positive influence has directly and indirectly touched the lives of many. From awards of high recognition and honor to framed photographs with Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and others, it’s easy to see from these materials that Usery had a hand in political change for decades. Continue reading “Usery: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”
Back when Georgia College was called the Women’s College of Georgia in the 1960s, several of the groups recorded their performances. As you might guess, few folks today have record players, though they are making a comeback due to a niche market. However, most people can’t play records anymore.
Of course, when a group of alumnae are getting together for an informal reunion and they all participated in one or more of those performances during their time at the college, they want to hear themselves! This is where our audiovisual emulation and migration capabilities in Special Collections come into play. Thanks to my predecessor, Josh Kitchens, we have a setup of wires and tubes and contraptions that doesn’t look like it should work, yet always miraculously does. I rue the day that computer or those drives have to be replaced, as I’m fairly certain I cannot re-engineer Josh’s Marvel. Included are a record player, a reel-to-reel, a U-Matic player, and a VHS player. There are probably other pieces that I haven’t noticed yet because I haven’t needed them (yet).