Historic Macon unveils ‘Sharing Our Stories’ exhibit series

Maryel Battin leaned in to read a name typed on an archived document that was part of a collage on a seven-foot panel unveiled Monday evening at the Sidney Lanier Cottage.

She found the name of her husband, Peter, on a March 1975 invitation to a meeting of the Middle Georgia Historical Society and the Intown Macon Neighborhood Association.

“We were saving things that people thought, ‘There’s no way to save (that),’” said Battin, who has lived in a house on College Street about 40 years. “The most important thing for me is to see that Historic Macon and Intown are still viable organizations.”

The panel Battin studied is one of three that make up the first installment of the Historic Macon Foundation’s “Sharing Our Stories,” a series of 12 mobile panels that focus on the city’s historic streets and neighborhoods as well as the parent organizations that helped preserve them.

“We’re telling a larger story of the community and what we do as an organization with preservation,” said Emily Hopkins, marketing coordinator for the foundation. “The idea with our panels, going forward, is to kind of tell those stories and how different streets have changed and (to) show a more diverse perspective of preservation.”

Two of the panels currently on display feature the Middle Georgia Historical Society, founded in 1964, and the Macon Heritage Foundation, which branched from the historical society in 1975 to handle the “bricks and mortar” preservation efforts in Macon. The two organizations merged in 2003 to form the Historic Macon Foundation.

The third panel features Walnut Street, highlighting its historic homes as well as its changes over time.

The series is funded by a $12,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, and the panels were created by Macon design firm Burt & Burt, Hopkins said. The next series will be completed in 2015, as soon as research can be completed. The panels will be moved to the community centers, streets and neighborhoods they reflect, Hopkins said.

“(The panels) show that there’s always kind of been a community investment of preservation in Macon,” Hopkins said. “The Middle Georgia Historical Society was really formed by people who were interested in making sure there was this agency that could preserve Macon’s history and tell those stories. They’re the reason why the Sidney Lanier Cottage is here.”

What began as a volunteer staff that collected oral histories, held rambles and archived stories has evolved for 50 years to become the modern-day Historic Macon, Hopkins said.

Kim Campbell, preservation and education coordinator for Historic Macon, said the foundation inherited archives from both the historical society and the Macon Heritage Foundation. She said the panels are not only a way to share the foundation’s archives and resources, but also a way to share how important preservation is to Macon.

“Preservation has played a really big role in Macon’s history and is certainly playing a big role in today’s events,” Campbell said. “These panels are a way for us to look at the last 50 years and see where we’ve come from so we can decide where we’re headed in the next 50 years.”

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.