James.qxp July August 2018 web - Page 33

to Continue Preserving
Georgia’s History
The year was 1839 when the General Assembly, in its wisdom, chartered the Georgia Historical Society— the oldest
continuously operating historical society in the South. Its
mission: “Collect, examine and teach Georgia and
American history through education and research.”
Milledgeville was the capital at the time but Savannah was
still Georgia’s major city and three Savannahians— William
Bacon Stevens, Israel Tefft and Dr. Richard Arnold— came
up with the idea to create the organization. It was the tenth
such state society founded in the United States.
With the motto “Non Sibi, Sed Alus” (“Not for Self, But
for Others”) the GHS became a non-university research
and educational institution and, as such, houses the historical documents that mark some of the most important
and consequential moments in Georgia history. The collection is housed in Hodgson Hall, one of the oldest library
buildings in the U.S. and designed by the founder of the
American Institute of Architect’s Detlef Lienau.
The most significant document in the Society’s collection may be the original draft copy of the U.S. Constitution
that belonged to Abraham Baldwin, one of the delegates to
the constitutional convention in 1787. (Can you name the
others? William Few, William Houston and William Pierce.
Abraham probably felt the odd man out.) Besides the precious copy of the Constitution, it also houses more than 4
million manuscripts, 100,000 photographs, 30,000 architectural drawings, 15,000 books, and thousands of maps,
newspapers, portraits, and artifacts. Georgians such as
Griffin Bell, Vince Dooley, Benjamin Hawkins, Helen
Dortch Longstreet, Juliette Gordon Low, and Bernie
Marcus all have their papers there.
Besides the papers sitting in the library, there is an
impressive array of resources as part of its Educational
Outreach Programs. The GHS is not merely a housing operation for founding documents but a living, breathing
research institution. Readers may notice the historical
markers dotted around the state. They are courtesy of the
GHS. It works hard to ensure its collection and the history of
Georgia are accessible to as wide an audience as possible
and the K-12 crowd are one of the most important pieces.
“The Georgia Historical Society is committed to sharing
Georgia history because we believe that public knowledge of
our past is fundamental to our future. It is what binds us all
together and shapes the future of business, government, and
society as a whole,” said Patricia Meagher, Director of
Communications. “Through our historical marker program
as well as all of the other educational programming we
administer we are impacting Georgia’s students, residents,
and visitors in a meaningful way.” continued on page 34
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8


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