by Jana Riley
When it comes to the "wow-factor," the Augusta Museum of History is far from lacking.
At a little under 60,000 square feet, the building is brimming with fascinating collections, not the least of which is the Transportation Corridor, which includes a 1917 steam locomotive complete with accessible passenger car, a bright yellow 1920's trolley, and a reconstructed gas station from the 1930's.
Another well-trafficked area in the museum is the exhibition entitled, "Celebrating a Grand Tradition: The Sport of Golf," which explores how golf has evolved over the centuries while sharing the stories of key players in the sport. Most popular, however, is a collection titled "The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown." This collection attracts visitors from all over the globe. Featuring clothing, personal artifacts, family photos, and interactive audio-visual stations, the exhibits allow for complete immersion in the James Brown experience, paying homage to the Augusta native in an engaging setting. The museum also highlights famous and notable people in its "Local Legends" exhibition, explores 12,000 years of local history in the "Augusta's Story" collection, chronicles 200 years of the city's medical history in "A Community That Heals," and so much more.
In the twelve years since Executive Director, Nancy J. Glaser, came to work for the Augusta Museum of History, the biggest change, she says, are the programs, which all ultimately support the same common mission. "In my opinion, our role is to share the wealth of this place with as many people as we can, in a variety of ways," she says. "The programs are what really make the mission happen."
One of the museum's most popular events is called "Southern Suds: Come for the Beer, Stay for the History," which features local beer, food, and a live DJ alongside lectures from local beer experts about beer and the local brewing industry. Riverwatch Brewing created a signature brew just for the event called "Per Simma Down," based on an 1870's recipe in a cookbook from the museum's collection.
Visitors also come out in droves for the "Night at the Museum" event, where the lights go down and the characters come to life, bringing a fun and engaging element to the educational experience.
Last year, the team at the museum debuted the Museum Escape program - merging the popular physical strategy activity of escape rooms with the trove of local history available at the Augusta Museum of History. The team creates a storyline and clues based on true historical events, and guests are led into a gallery relevant to the time period during which the events occurred. They are given clues and walkie-talkie before being locked in for 45 minutes. Then, using the exhibits present combined with clues, they attempt to find the answer and escape before the 45 minutes passes. The Augusta Museum of History was the first museum in the United States to offer an escape room program, and one of only a handful all over the world, a distinction that Glaser says reflects her hopes for the future.
We do want to evolve [and] stay ahead of the curve as much as we can, always remaining relevant, interesting, and exciting.
Regular museum theatre events bring history to life as they tell the stories of "The Other Tubmans" and "A Petersburg Boat Pilot."
Printable, themed worksheets for kids K-12 make trips to make the museum into the museum into interactive scavenger hunts. Worksheets are available on AugustaMuseum.org.
Once a year, see the Augusta Museum of History's Rotunda transform into a classic cabaret night club. Enjoy musical interludes by a barbershop quartet mixed with character vignettes from the history of Augusta's River Region.