The Rome Area History Center reopened this week after closing for several months for renovations and upgrades.
Archivist Selena Tilly and the city’s tourism department closed the downtown museum in early March, right as coronavirus cases began to show up in Georgia. During that time, Tilly, staff and volunteers used the downtime to begin renovating and brainstorming on ways to improve the museum.
The museum, which formerly had a layout similar to a bowling alley, is now more like a maze. Their hope is to allow visitors to weave through and explore the history of Rome — starting with the founding of the city in the 1830s, going all the way through the Civil Rights Movement, and ending with the history of Rome’s industries.
The new addition to the museum that Tilly is most excited about is the salvaged steam engine and wood from the steamboat Dixie. On Monday, workers from Huether’s Ornamental Iron came by to deliver and set up the exhibit.
The Rome-Floyd ECO Center donated its replicas of famous riverboats, including the Dixie, to the museum’s rivers section.
A replica of the boat pilot’s cabin is another special part of the exhibit and allows visitors to go in and watch footage of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers.
Another exhibit that is still in the midst of upgrades is the Civil Rights Movement display. Right now, the exhibit is a replica of J.C. Murphy’s lunch counter, where a locally famous sit-in took place in the 1960s.
This exhibit is even more important now, Tilly said, with the topics of racism and justice in the forefront of a national conversation. She hopes to have local activists who took part in the sit-in come in and talk about what the movement was like in Rome in the future.
Before noon on Tuesday, the museum had around nine visitors come in and tour. While admission is free, people must reserve their times in advance.
Upon arrival, visitors will have their temperature taken and be asked screening questions for COVID-19. Hand sanitizer and masks are also available for guests and the museum staff wear masks while giving tours.
To schedule a visit with the history center at 305 Broad St., go to their website or call 706-235-8051.