James Mar-Apr 2022 web - Flipbook - Page 31
M ARCH/A PR IL 2022
t’s fitting that the Georgia Historical Society’s
Research Center in Savannah, Hodgson Hall, has
a rich history of its own. Built to honor William B.
Hodgson, a Savannah-based diplomat, scholar,
and longtime member of the Society, Hodgson Hall was
designed by renowned Danish architect Detlef Lienau,
founder of the American Institute of Architects. Completed
in 1876, it is one of the oldest library buildings in the nation and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Its 36-foot high ceilings and tall, vaulted windows in
the main library are its most striking feature, allowing for
plenty of natural light and ventilation, important features
in the 19th century. While it has undergone periodic renovations over the past 140-odd years much of the original
building remains intact. From the original brass hinges
on the interior doors to the Reading Room to the bronze
railings along the mezzanine and staircases, the library
doesn’t just contain history, it is history.
Today the library hosts the largest collection of Georgia
historical documents and artifacts in the state, including
over 5 million manuscripts, 100,000 photographs, 20,000
books, and thousands of maps and portraits. It contains
such treasures as an original draft of the U.S. Constitution,
personal items belonging to Georgia founder (and James
magazine’s namesake) James Oglethorpe and records
related to the Cherokee Removal and Trail of Tears of 1836.
It also includes more modern artifacts such as the
Vince Dooley Collection, where visitors can see every
letter the legendary University of Georgia football coach
sent during his long career.
And the Research Center is more than a museum, it
has hosted thousands of researchers, authors, students,
and filmmakers interested in studying Georgia history and
seeking to find primary sources amidst GHS’ vast collection. Their findings have made their way into countless
books, articles, speeches and films, keeping Georgia’s past
connected to its present through generations.
Suffice it to say when expansions and renovations are
required to better host the Society’s ever-growing collection, they are taken seriously and carried out thoughtfully.
The first such addition took place in 1970, when a
much-needed modern annex was built to safely store
the Society’s collection of artifacts. Named in honor of
Edmund H. Abrahams, a noted lawyer-historian of Savannah, the Abrahams Annex is arched to blend in with
the original building.
Fast forward another forty-five years to 2015, a mere
blink in the eyes of history, and the Abrahams Archival
Annex was approaching capacity.
Society President and CEO W. Todd Groce relied on
Laura García-Culler, Executive Vice-President and COO
of the Georgia Historical Society, and Beth Robinson,
GHS Associate Director of Administration, to lead the
expansion— its largest and most ambitious in history.
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