Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dublin-Laurens County Museum, Dublin, GA

We’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled to some really great places – Versailles, Rome, Athens, Damascus, and now Dublin… Dublin, Georgia that is. All of the other places are in the states, too: Versailles, Kentucky; Rome, Georgia; Athens, Alabama; and, Damascus, Virginia. Thanksgiving this past year found us in the heart of Georgia for a family reunion and we found a little time to go Museum Junkin’.

Our travels took us to the Dublin-Laurens County Museum right in the center of downtown Dublin. The museum is operated by the Laurens County Historical Society. The Historical Society was founded in 1967. The museum is housed in an old library, a Carnegie Library. Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie donated money so than communities (and at time universities) could build libraries. There are almost 1,700 such libraries in the United States, built between 1883 and 1929. Dublin’s library was built in 1903 and 1904.

There are numerous exhibits within the spacious interior of the museum. There is information on early inhabitants, Native Americans, and on local Confederate soldiers. The docent on duty gave us a brief history of the library, and its life as a museum. As is often the case with older buildings, this one was undergoing repairs, so one corner was off limits to visitors.

The Dublin-Laurens County Museum is located on 311 Academy Street. The museum is open in the afternoons and has a web site:
From a Historian’s point of view: Michael enjoyed seeing the seventeenth-century flintlock pistol found in an old chimney in Ireland. He does think that some of the displays could have been better labeled. As with many local history museums, a little less stuff and a little more history would have been nice.

From an Educator’s point of view: Elizabeth really liked the historic wedding dress, invitations, and other mementos as well as the many items from a local family’s sitting room. She also found the labeling hard to read, as the tags were often hand-labeled and faded. Also, many items were hard for younger visitors to see. This museum is not one we consider child friendly, as the docent did not seem at all happy at the sight of visitors under 21, and there was a distinct “hands-off” feel to the exhibits, though there were some great miniatures and historic toys that would interest younger guests, and the history of the library itself would be fascinating to most students as they compare this facility to the libraries they use.

From an eight year-old’s point of view: Though Nathaniel was a little frustrated by not being able to see everything well, he was fascinated by the display of lightning glass (the glass created when lightning strikes sand, as you may remember if you’ve seen Sweet Home Alabama!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mala Compra Plantation – Palm Coast, Florida

We never set out to go to the Mala Compra Plantation Archeological Site in Palm Coast, Florida. We were driving down A1A, heading toward Ormond Beach, saw the sign, and turned around. We were glad we did. After a day of museum crawling at planned sites (some of which were disappointing), it was great to find this little gem, the best site we visited that day. Mala Compra is a Spanish phrase for bad bargain or bad purchase, and the plantation, one of northeast Florida’s largest, was worked from 1816 through 1836. The plantation was owned and worked largely by one of Florida’s most important early settlers: Joseph Hernandez. Hernandez was born in St. Augustine in 1793. He later joined the United States Army to fight the Seminoles, and was commissioned brigadier general by President James Monroe. Later, Hernandez served as the first Hispanic member of the United States Congress and as the first delegate from the state of Florida. The plantation produced sea island cotton, corn, and sweet oranges, and John James Audubon visited Mala Compra in December 1831. The plantation was burned by the Seminole in 1836. The site was purchased by Flagler County in 1989, and excavations have been performed over the past twenty years. The original house, kitchen, and well have been uncovered. The entire site is preserved under a pole barn-type structure, and artifacts and audio exhibits greet visitors.

Beside the archaeological site, there are numerous hiking trails, places to fish, and a boat launch ramp. The site is open from sunrise to sunset. You can learn more here.

From the historian’s perspective: Michael really enjoyed the original artifacts that are available for viewing. The markers contain a wealth of information about the Hernandez family, their slaves, and life in the early 1800s.

From the educator’s perspective: Elizabeth liked how accessible and visitor-focused the site was, with lights that illuminated areas of the dig while the markers displayed the way that section appeared originally. This really helps visitors, particularly kids, to put the dig in context. Many of the dug items on display were also impressive and great educational tools. The family’s well, a segment of a child’s shoe, and shattered tableware also bring these long dead-people to life for visitors. Even younger children will enjoy this site, as it is not too overwhelming in size, and there is plenty of room to roam.
From an eight year old’s perspective: Nathaniel enjoyed seeing “real” archaeology at work, and was delighted with the solar-powered, timed lights that make the site energy efficient and well as interesting from a technical standpoint. He also enjoyed picturing the site as it existed long ago.