Input on museum wanted
Public invited to offer ideas

COVINGTON - The public is invited to give input on the design of the planned Newton County History Center at an upcoming meeting.

To be housed in the rehabilitated historic jail on Stallings Street, the museum is now its second phase of development.

During the first phase, stakeholders and the public joined a museum consultant in developing a strategic plan.

Now, it's time to actually design the exhibits.

The public has a chance to have a hand in that by attending a meeting at 6 p.m. April 24 at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, 2104 Washington St.

Museum consultant Kathy Dixson of Avient Museum Services in Atlanta will present ideas on how to utilize space in the building, including the upstairs jail cells.

Exhibits will likely be temporary, with changing collections of artifacts donated by community members, said Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for the county.

"The building is not large enough to have a permanent collection. There are a lot of requirements as far as the type of building (needed for permanent exhibits)," Delk said.

A more permanent feature could be panels featuring historic communities throughout the county.

Research is also ongoing for an oral history project, in which residents will give their accounts of events from the past. A professional oral historian will visit in May to train volunteers.

Dixson said she wants the museum to be "dynamic" and "community-oriented" and to play an important part of local tourism.

"We really see ourselves as a nexus point. From the History Center, we want to send people out to other historic sites, and we want them to know about other resources available," she said. "We see it having a broad reach."

Galleries are planned for both downstairs and upstairs, in and around the old jail cells and the gallows. The building will also include a community meeting room and two offices, one of which may be used by the Newton County Historical Society.

Commissioners have allocated $500,000 in special purpose local option sales tax revenues for the project.

The county also received a $50,000 local development grant fund from the Department of Community Affairs to hire a museum consultant, with the county and city each contributing a $25,000 match.

A newly-formed volunteer group, Friends of Newton History Center, is trying to raise additional funds.

Dixson said a contractor should be on board by June, with the project completed by late this year or early 2009.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@ newtoncitizen.com.