A kick-off reception for “Macon, Then & Now” was held at the Sidney Lanier Cottage on March 25. The exhibit, a project of Historic Macon Foundation (a Knight Foundation grantee), features a collection of archival photographs of historic homes in Macon’s College Hill area displayed alongside contemporary photographs of the same locations.
A statement about the project explains,”Macon’s identity and pride spring from its unique historic architecture… Macon has lost many historic buildings to fired and the wrecking ball. ‘Macon, Then & Now’ illustrates the story of that loss and but also of the success of historic preservation… These images stand as a testament to Macon’s greatness and a challenge to us to bequeath this city, preserved and revitalized, to future generations.”
Maryel Battin, who conceived and organized the project, explained, “We’ve been able to save a lot. We’ve also lost a lot… seeing what we have is the most important part of it… and giving us a sense of our history.”
Battin, who has been involved in historic preservation for many years, partnered with Historic Macon Foundation on the project. The organization’s mission is to revitalize Macon by preserving architecture and sharing history. The Middle Georgia Camera Club stepped up to help as well. Members of the group volunteered to photograph locations featured in archival photos. They set up shots from the same angles as the original photographs in order to clearly demonstrate the changes that have occurred.
Battin believes that having the exhibit travel throughout the community will increase its impact.
“I think also (it’s important) having a traveling exhibit like this where we can take it out to public places. People might not see it if it were just at the cottage. But whether it is at the chamber of commerce or the library or the universities and colleges, you’re taking it out to the public rather than asking the public to come to you.”
Josh Rogers, executive director of Historic Macon, said the exhibit would be on display for about one year.
“I think we will have the exhibit here (Sidney Lanier Cottage) for the next month, but we are going to make sure it travels around to various public venues and various locations, so a lot of people can have access to it. Part of the point of it is to make it convenient to transport, so people can visit it.”
Rogers feels that the photographs are able to tell a compelling story about historic preservation and the importance of being purposeful in urban development and revitalization.
“(The exhibit) tends to be coercive just through the photos. I can tell you historic buildings are really important, because they document social change over time and what the priorities of a culture are in a way that you can experience and see. But to have the pictures that show that change and illustrate how the economy and society and priorities and social structures changed over time through the buildings of Macon is really cool. I think it also emphasizes separate from historic preservation, how much of a responsibility we have in building a built environment that reflects our priorities and not just let things happen around us. Every building is a choice good or bad that we live with every day in our lives. Putting good buildings up new or keeping good buildings that are old is really important.”
“Macon, Then & Now” is currently on display at the Sidney Lanier Cottage. Contact the Historic Macon Foundation after April 25 to learn where the exhibit will go next.
Members of the Middle Georgia Camera Club who contributed to this projected include: Chuck Kulpa, Rudy Mullis, Chris Bryson, Travis Vires, Larry Brown, Jan Thiese, Alan Thiese, Phil Bonds, Tim Sorrells, Bonnie Gehling and Binks Solomon.
The Historic Macon Foundation’s “Macon, Then & Now” project is funded by the Knight Foundation Challenge Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, with special assistance from the Middle Georgia Camera Club and the Washington Memorial Library Archives Collection.
Historic Macon Foundation: 935 High St., Macon; 478-742-5084; www.historicmacon.org