Creation Museum shuts doors; artifacts to be auctioned

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- One of the anchors of the Blue Willow Village in Social Circle will soon go on the auction block.

The Gallery of Creation Museum created by Joseph Hurt Studio Inc. will be liquidated at a public auction scheduled for June 25 and 26. About 700 items will be up for sale.

"Many of these items have never before been offered to the public for sale, and in my opinion, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have some of these items," said John Haney, general manager of Higgenbotham Auctioneers International based in Lakeland, Fla. "I would also say that for different religious groups and churches, many of these items focus on God's work in creating the Earth and some of the items, I would think, would be desirable for churches and other organizations. ... The items are absolutely exquisite."

The museum was located in the Blue Willow Village, just behind the Blue Willow Inn Restaurant. The Village has been plagued with financial difficulty almost since it opened in 2008, due in large part to the rocky economy, which caused many of the tenants to back out of their lease agreements, according to Louis Van Dyke, owner of the Blue Willow Village and the Blue Willow Inn. Van Dyke continues to work with lenders to restructure his loans to avoid foreclosure on the property.

According to the Joseph Hurt Studio website, the goal of the Gallery of Creation was to "present examples of God's creation in such a beautiful manner that one is inspired to have a greater appreciation for God's handiwork and a greater love for our creator."

Some of the displays in the museum included a large mounted butterfly exhibit, a tyrannosaurus rex skull, a 102-pound iron meteorite, other minerals, rocks, fossils and seashells. The centerpiece of the Gallery of Creation was its collection of talking robotic animals, including robotic giant pandas and a lion with a lamb.

Joseph Hurt Studio has been a family-operated business since 1972 when it first opened in Stone Mountain. The museum relocated to Social Circle soon after the Blue Willow Village opened.

They found a niche in creating sculptures, molds, exhibit designs, reptile and plant reproductions, model making and artificial robotic animals, among others, according to the company's website.

Some of Joseph Hurt's clients include the Georgia State Museum, Fernbank Museum, Disney World, Epcot, Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Attempts to reach the Joseph Hurt Studio were unsuccessful, but Haney said the decision to close the museum was largely due to the economy.

"In this particular sale the owners want to retire and the economy did play a factor, and they want to go in other directions," Haney said.

The public auction will be held at the museum, located at 200 Village Circle, Suite A, in Social Circle. The auction begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26. Internet bidding will also be held simultaneously. For more information or to register for online bidding, visit www.higgenbotham.com or call 1-800-257-4161.