KENNESAW, Ga. — The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everything into chaos. As students have moved from the schoolhouse to the home, the opportunities to visit cultural attractions have also ceased. But today, how can families still learn about history from the comfort of their homes? There are plenty of ways. One of them is taking in Kennesaw, Georgia’s Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History. Online!
Dr. Richard Banz, executive director of the Southern Museum, shared his thoughts on the opportunities for families during the pandemic. He also noted ways to keep the interest going after the world emerges from the shutdown.
What are some of the best ways people were able to incorporate history lessons while quarantined?
During the lockdown, many people turned to streaming services, and these services have documentaries covering just about every period in history. Books have also been popular with many, even fictional historical novels such as The Killer Angels and Cold Mountain can illicit interest in the time period.
For those who may be musically inclined or interested, there are hundreds of folk songs that can be performed or even enjoyed online. Historic themed games have also made a comeback as people look for new ways to enjoy family time.
How can families concerned about returning to normal learn about history while social distancing?
There are so many outdoor parks and monuments that commemorate people or moments in history. Auto touring also can be fun. Driving and searching for old architecture, landmarks and rail lines is an entertaining way to get out of the house and experience history while social distancing.
Many museums are posting information on their social channels highlighting historical events or people who shaped history, helping to bring the museum experience into homes in a small way. [The Southern Museum] made it a point to feature artifacts on our social channels. While it’s not the same as seeing them in person, we’ve received positive feedback from our followers who appreciate the opportunity to experience history at least in a limited way.
How can families keep their momentum going even after the pandemic subsides?
Stay curious and find opportunities to explore within your comfort zone. I am hoping that in some way, families have become closer. Instead of taking that extended vacation, why not spend your vacation rediscovering history right within your own community?
We look forward to welcoming the public back soon and helping them on their journey to discover history.
Post-COVID, will people interact with museums differently, and how will the museum change?
It remains to be seen. Programming will be different for a while, but it provides an opportunity to develop programming for smaller groups.
Museums have always been personal spaces for reflection, and I believe that we will see this continue. Self-guided tours and exhibits won’t really change that much. I think it will take some time for people to go back to larger group activities and program offerings.
What’s the biggest question people are asking you?
When will things return to normal? In a way, it’s a complex question to ponder because people have asked the same questions at various times in history.
Looking at the museum and particularly our Civil War focus, it was a common question during that conflict. Things were never quite the same after the war.
COVID-19 is quite different from the Civil War, but in some ways, we may be forever changed. Then again, it’s too early to really tell, but it is interesting that history can repeat itself, as do our questions along the way.
For more information, visit SouthernMuseum.org.
— Headline image: The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)