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Georgia College opens new museum Heritage Hall: Paying tribute to significant individuals, milestones

It began as a vision of the Georgia College Administration. They wanted a gathering place for the university’s students, alumni, friends and community members. They also saw the need for a place to showcase the college’s milestones and the remarkable individuals who facilitated the growth of the university. That came to fruition Nov. 3, 2018. 

Georgia College President Dr. Steve Dorman cuts the ribbon unveiling the new
Heritage Hall with the help of Vice President of University Advancement Monica
Delisa and Senior Project Manager Mark Bowen.

The warm, inviting space known as Heritage Hall was unveiled during Alumni Weekend.

The main entry of Heritage Hall reveals a timeline mural, from the university’s inception in 1889 until present, depicting the impact of philanthropy on the university’s growth. Staff from Georgia College’s Facilities Planning, the Ina Dillard Russell Library and University Advancement was crucial in orchestrating the precise portrayal of Georgia College’s donors, community leaders and achievements through the years. 

 The stately entrance to the new Heritage Hall branches off into distinct areas. A sample of the Special Collections Galleries, include:

  • The Flannery O’Connor Gallery of Southern Literary Works.
  • The Golden Slipper Award—created by the Georgia College Student Government Association as a way for first-year students to connect with upperclassmen. 
  • Journalist and lobbyist Julia Flisch, who pushed to establish Georgia College.  
  • Pulitzer Prize winner and author Alice Walker.
  • Exhibits of history and culture including:
    • Podcasts of local veterans, students, community members regarding the Vietnam War.
    • Medals and memorabilia of Vietnam War veterans.
    • The W.J. Usery Jr. Leadership Gallery, featuring community leaders such as Georgia’s First Lady, Foundation Board member Sandra Dunagan Deal, '64, '66,  past State Senator Col. Floyd Griffin Jr. and former U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell. 

      Heritage Hall’s new W.J. Usery Jr. Leadership Gallery features leaders such as
      Georgia’s First Lady and GC Foundation Board Member Sandra Dunagan Deal, ’64,
      ’66, past State Senator Col. Floyd Griffin Jr. and former U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell.

The University Archives Galleries feature a scrolling donor list. Images of past presidents, faculty and staff and donors adorn the walls. An interactive table allow visitors to access yearbooks, a list of gift givers, videos, stories about donors and students, biographies on the Foundation and Alumni Boards and social media posts.

Across from the galleries is the newly renovated Pat Peterson Museum Education Room—funded through the support of Foundation Board Member Hugh Peterson and his family. The room is used for staff, alumni and community functions.

“Before, the library’s main entrance was segmented and not well defined,” said Dr. Steve Dorman, president of Georgia College. “We took a hard look at how we could honor individuals who played a vital role in Georgia College’s success, while creating a welcoming space for guests—including alumni, friends, current and future students, their parents and members of the community.”

From the moment planning began, the University Advancement team began collaborating with local Historian Dr. Bob Wilson, researching how donors facilitated the university’s growth.

“When we first started talking about renovating the library’s entrance to Heritage Hall, we wanted to create something more than a donor wall where they are only listed by their support amount,” said Monica Delisa, vice president of University Advancement. 

“Instead, we wanted to show the impact of philanthropy at the university throughout time,” she said. “So, we endeavored to illustrate the story of the university through the

The Alice Walker exhibit is displayed in the Flannery O’Connor Gallery of Southern Literary
Works in Heritage Hall.

impact that donors have made across the life of Georgia College.”

Construction on Heritage Hall began mid-February and ended in July 2018. Project planners had a relatively short time frame to determine what would occupy the new space. 

“When creating a museum exhibit, you typically need 18 months for planning and research,” said Evan Leavitt, manager of facilities operations and planning at Russell Library. “We went from conception to installation in basically eight months. So, the biggest challenge of the project was to figure out what stories to tell, build the narrative and find the artifacts to put on display in a timely manner.”

The team recruited an exhibit designer. He engaged a company to collect data on Georgia College, including videos, donor information, graphics packages and audio-visual pieces.

“Once the exhibit designer was on board, we were able to determine the scope of work,” said Mark Bowen, senior project manager at Georgia College. “He had the expertise to draw in the content management company, which worked heavily with the University Advancement team to pull in all the content that would go into the murals, the graphics packages as well as the audio visual piece.”

The last team member was the fabricator, responsible for providing display cases, like the one that houses the original U.S. Navy WAVES uniforms worn by an alumna.

“Aside from the Old Governor’s Mansion, Heritage Hall is probably the first space we have on campus that is really museum-quality exhibit space,” said Bowen. “We were able to take some of the architectural features of the original building and incorporate them into the renovation and make them part of the space again. I think this gives a nod back to the original historic facility.” 

Heritage Hall celebrates how generosity has impacted the university throughout the years. This includes a gift of $450,000 from the Georgia College Foundation’s Board of Trustees to help make the renovation possible. 

“We want to show the impact of philanthropy on the Georgia College path to preeminence,” said Delisa. “It has been rewarding and exciting to really look back and see how donors have changed the trajectory of the university over time, and how they have changed the lives of our students, alumni, faculty and staff.”

Now, as visitors journey through Heritage Hall, they can pull up information about Georgia College connecting with its past and gaining an understanding of how fundamental a gift to the university can be.

“One of the things that this research project made clear was that the university would not be where it is without our kind and generous benefactors,” said Delisa. 

“My hope is that the public will be able to recognize and acknowledge the impact of philanthropy on the university,” she added. “And maybe they can better envision their role as supporters and the importance of philanthropy to Georgia College.”

Learn how you can contribute to Georgia College’s success to help make future projects, like Heritage Hall, possible.


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