One of the most exciting developments in Cherokee County this year will be when the new History Cherokee facility opens to the public. (At press time, it was expected to open in November. Check for updates at https://historycherokee.org.) Let’s start with a brief summary of the organization’s history.
Originally named the Cherokee County Historical Society, it has operated as a nonprofit organization since the 1970s, but its facility only had around 900 square feet of exhibition space. In 2019, staff embarked upon a new vision and rebranded the organization as History Cherokee. When the old Canton Police Station building became available (which was originally a post office), the city of Canton offered it at a reduced price to support that vision. The capital campaign, with an initial goal of $4 million, has gone well, and construction began in fall 2019. Like so many other things in 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak halted construction, which restarted in fall 2021.
The design is an ambitious one, with six exhibition galleries (five permanent, one rotating) arrayed in a circle around a central auditorium, in such a way that you can walk the perimeter circuit through each gallery, but also can access any one gallery directly through the auditorium. In addition to the galleries, there is an extensive local history library, an educational center for presenting programs, and archives for storage of the extensive collection. There even are a few special items to view outside of the building in the works. The galleries themselves are designed to be interactive, with things to hear, touch and see, and appropriate for all age groups. For example, the main hall will have maps that cover various places and eras in our county’s history.
The five permanent galleries are chronological:
1. The first showcases the county’s “prehistory,” from the time before any Europeans settlers were here. Native American artifacts will dominate this gallery.
2. The second spans the time period of roughly 1755-1877, which encompasses the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee people and their removal from Georgia, slavery and emancipation, the Civil War and Reconstruction.
3. The third spans 1879-1938, and covers the founding of most of the cities in the county, as well as local businesses, mills, the railroad, and the decline of the cotton industry. Prohibition and moonshining will be covered here, as well as the Great Depression.
4. The fourth covers 1939-70, and discusses the rise of the poultry industry, World War II, the construction of Allatoona Lake, 1950s and ’60s culture, and racial integration in the late ’60s.
5. The fifth permanent gallery will focus on the 1970s to the present day, with the expansion of Interstate 575 into the county, the construction of the airport, the establishment of Dixie Speedway, and historical preservation efforts.
History Cherokee is here to serve our community. Having a place that can educate us about the place we call home is an immeasurable contribution to our lives. Each and every one of us needs to visit it, to experience it and to learn from it. And, of course, since it is a nonprofit organization, we also need to support it.
If you’ve read any of my articles this year, you know how excited I am about the rich historical legacy this county has, and I can’t wait to walk through those doors. Come ready to learn dozens of things you never knew about Cherokee County!
– The Wanderer has been a resident of Cherokee County for nearly 20 years, and constantly is learning about his community on daily walks, which totaled a little more than 1,800 miles in 2021. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.
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