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History of the Georgia Southern Museum

The first museum on campus was organized in the late 1920s, when the school was organized as the Georgia Normal School. Known as the Anderson Memorial Museum, it included shells, bones, and an eclectic assortment of artifacts. Later the library and individual departments exhibited objects and in the late 1970s, the Geology Department’s collections were displayed in the Herty Building and were called the Herty Museum.

The primary impetus to form the current Georgia Southern Museum was the acquisition of a mosasaur fossil skeleton by the geology department in the late 1970s. Paleontologist Dr. Gale Bishop was named as the first part-time director. On January 31, 1982 the museum officially opened for the public with a dedication ceremony and address by Dr. Craig Black, Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and then President of the American Association of Museums and in November of 1982, Dr. Del Presley began his tenure as Director. The museum continued to expand its significant fossil collections, most notably in June, 1983 when the museum excavated the Vogtle whale Georgiacetus vogtlensis – an internationally significant fossil discovered by Georgia Southern paleontologists, at Plant Vogtle, Burke County, Georgia. 

Under the direction of Dr. Brent Tharp since 2000, the museum has significantly expanded its cultural history collections, including a rare, pre-Civil War cotton gin, artifacts of the Gullah Geechee, and other significant collections documenting the interaction of the unique environment and cultures of south Georgia. In 2021, the university and museum completed major architectural renovations to the 1937 Rosenwald Building housing the museum, including redesigned permanent exhibits in two new galleries.

Last updated: 10/5/2021