The Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s new exhibit “Newnan Now and Then: Roaring back into the 20s” compares life in Coweta County in the 1820s and 1920s to 2020.
The exhibit was scheduled to have a grand opening April 3 at the McRitchie-Hollis Museum, but because of COVID-19, it was put on hold.
While the museum was closed, NCHS Executive Director Emily Kimbell said they focused on reaching people through their social media channels offering virtual tours and history lessons. The museum reopened for tours at the beginning of June.
Kimbell said the inspiration for the “Newnan Now and Then” exhibit was to celebrate that a century has passed since the “Roaring 20s” began.
She said they focused on looking at the community 100 years ago and now to see what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same. Kimbell said it also serves as a way to see what historical elements have inspired our community now.
Kimbell said the exhibit was also inspired by the historical society’s own collection because they have many artifacts from the 1920s. She said everything for the exhibit was pulled from the historical society’s collection.
“Of course, we had no idea how historic 2020 was going to be,” Kimbell said. “We knew the 1920s were quite a historic time, but now seeing 2020 as a historic time brings it full circle.”
Kimbell said one of her favorite parts of the exhibit is the picture gallery, which compares photos from the 1920s to photos taken this year.
“That’s a direct comparison of ‘here’s life in the 1920s’ and ‘here’s the exact same thing or a very similar thing happening right now,’ and that’s a very cool thing to see,” she said.
Kimbell said they are adding pictures to the gallery all the time, as events happen around the community.
Another of Kimbell’s favorite parts of the exhibit is the self-portraits that students at local schools created. She said they asked students to draw pictures of how they see themselves as citizens of Coweta County in 2020.
“It’s the best part of the exhibit,” Kimbell said.
She said students were able to create their self-portraits just before schools shut down because of COVID-19, and children who visit the museum can draw their self-portrait to add to the collection.
Kimbell said it’s also the first time they’ve collaborated with a school for students’ artwork. Museum Curator Noelle Hagen-Atwood said it’s cool to see what the students think are most important to them in 2020.
Hagen-Atwood said her favorite part of the exhibit are the two items from the 1820s. She said they have a quilt and a spinning wheel, which is representative of family life from that time period.
Hagen-Atwood said even the items from the 1820s feel like they relate to 2020 when people who were at home because of COVID-19 were baking more and learning new crafts.
“It’s really interesting putting together this exhibit, seeing how full circle everything has come,” Kimbell said. “The 1820s was a very domestic time, and around 1920 was when the Spanish Flu was around. There’s a lot of things that seem very, very similar.”
Last year’s exhibit was kept primarily in one room of the museum, but this year they decided to spread out items throughout the bottom floor of the McRitchie-Hollis Museum.
The NCHS collection mainly consists of items that have been donated to them over the years.
Kimbell said the collection is focused on local history, so everything is tied in some way to Newnan or Coweta County history.
To tell what time period an artifact is from, Hagen-Atwood said there are clues they can look at on an object, such as tags. She also said there are research databases where they can compare items from different time periods.
Kimbell said letters generally have dates on them, and they can date photographs by looking at the clothing the people in the photos are wearing.
Ideally, when someone donates something to the historical society, they know the story behind the object that they can share, Kimbell said. If an object does have a story behind it, they write it down and include it with the item when they archive it.
Kimbell said the quilt from the 1820s had been passed down through a local family, and they were able to share the history of it when it was donated.
The exhibit will be open at least through the end of the year, and Kimbell said they are looking at extending it into the beginning of 2021 since the museum had been closed for COVID-19.
Exhibit tours will be held Tuesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the hour. Tours will last 30 minutes to allow proper cleaning between each tour.
Tours are limited to no more than five people and all members of the tour group must be from the same household or family unit.
All tour group members over the age of two must wear a mask or face covering while in the building. Anyone not wearing a mask will be asked to leave or asked to purchase a disposable mask for a donation price of $1.
Tours can be scheduled by calling the NCHS offices at 770-251-0207 or on the historical society’s website, newnancowetahistoricalsociety.com .