Several weeks ago, I made a special trip to Cartersville, Georgia, to visit the Bartow History Museum and the Tellus Science Museum. (Cartersville also contains the very large Booth Western Art Museum, which unfortunately I couldn’t fit into my day trip, but some other time!)
A local history museum for Bartow County. This was the initial impetus for the trip, because I was researching museums at work and saw the BHM was about to close its temporary exhibit “Fill ‘Er Up: The Story of the Service Station.” Apparently I’m interested in antique gas pumps, because I REALLY WANTED TO SEE THEM, so I squeaked in on the last day of the exhibit.
That exhibit was a bit smaller than I’d hoped, but I still enjoyed seeing the pumps and associated paraphernalia. The permanent exhibits made up for it, too. The idea or “thesis” of the permanent exhibits is to convey Bartow County’s sense of place and development up to the present day. Most of it is set up in — what do you call life-size dioramas? Are they still just “dioramas?” Either way, it’s cool. You can see the insides of Cherokee and settlers’ homes, Civil War-era living rooms, a 1940s-ish kitchen, and so on. Then they also have industry exhibits, so you can see the inside of a barber shop, textile production equipment, and things like that. The walkthrough finishes with a gallery of notable Bartow County people and a gallery of military uniforms worn by residents.
It’s a high-quality local museum, with informative and easy-to-understand labels that supplement well-chosen items. I was particularly impressed by their balance of videos, text and objects, and the occasional tactile element. It makes for an engaging walkthrough, and there’s also an interactive room where kids can touch stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing what their next temporary exhibit will be!
About fifteen minutes down the road, I totally switched gears for the science museum. It’s reaaaally big, so I had to be more selective in my time dispensation. My main objective, though, was dinosaurs! Huuuuge dinosaurs. I looked at every single bone and read every word of text in the Fossil Gallery, and it was delightful. Again, a really good job of label-text writing, giving a sense of what the dinosaur was like and often some information about how the bones were found. The labels might mention the dinosaur’s diet or lifestyle, but usually included a note about how the bones indicated those things, so there are several layers of education there. My favorite was the underwater room, with a plesiosaur and huge fish and a giant turtle. The underwater ones are my favorite anyway, but they had it set up with blue light waving like it’s underwater, fish outlines on the walls, and it was super awesome!
This segment of the museum also contained plenty of small fossils with notes on how creatures become fossilized, and they also had some push-button interactive displays as well as a few Touch Me! objects. They also had a panel about how and why they use casts for display. (If I have a criticism, it’s that I wasn’t always sure what was real and what was a cast.)
I had a quick walk through their “Science in Motion” gallery, which contained various historical conveyances and some spaceflight stuff. It was impressive and sparkling, particularly the space stuff, but (despite my apparent interest in filling stations) there’s only so long I can look at a car, so I didn’t spend a lot of time there. I also had a walk through the Mineral Gallery. I didn’t spend much time on the rows and rows of minerals, but there were some interesting science displays, a small temporary gallery showing mega-expensive art made of gold and jewels, and a big Periodic Table wall that displayed items and pictures, not just chunks of stuff! The whole gallery was very kid-friendly.
Other attractions I didn’t visit include a solar-powered house, an interactive “My Big Backyard” room for kids, fossil dig/gem panning activities, and temporary exhibits within their main galleries. I did walk through the substantial gift shop, though, and watched a planetarium show! It’d been years and I was super excited about that one. It was a live-narrated tour of that night’s sky. It was fun, but mostly for kids — it looked like all the shows on the schedule were kid-targeted, and I just wish they had something more advanced as well. (Some of the others might be, of course. I only saw one show.)
Verdict: Would attend again!