Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village; Tifton, GA

Worth a full day stop in Tifton, Georgia (whose only other advantage is affordable hotels), when driving via Interstate 75 to or from Florida. I dedicated four hours to it, and didn’t come close to seeing it all.

I found a very good 15min film on Youtube about the how the museum is integrated with the Georgia University of agriculture, and supported by the state. It also includes interviews with the various docents and the crafts that they teach at the site.

While there is an indoor museum of agriculture at the back, the real draw here, which should enthrall kids and parents alike, is the historic village; it is probably the most complete example of what I like to call living museums that I’ve seen so far, complete with docents giving demonstrations.

When I first arrived at the attraction I was a little confused. There are essentially two entrances, the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, which is visible from Interstate 75, and the country store. When driving there, you first pass the country store (which seems to just be a store with a normal sized parking lot) and then there’s a driveway that seems to be beckoning you towards the Georgia Museum where there is a massive parking lot. So I drove to the Museum, parked, walked in, and was told by two historically garbed elderly women sitting at the entrance table there (knitting, no really, knitting), that in fact I was supposed to go to the country store first.

The Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village is actually a very good example of this “living museums” trend: they have brought in different buildings, historic ones from around the area and created a town of 1800s technology. To enter the town you ride a real steam locomotive train (the day I went the “conductor” looked to be about 8 years old),

and then are let off at the train depot (fully recreated) and left there to explore the surrounding homes, farms (with animals and fields), and often elderly docents in historic costumes/garb, who will walk you through the homes and explain whose home it was, where it was moved from, aspects of the histories of the families that owned the home, and how they ‘functioned’ with the 1800’s technology.

The old school (the original 1895 building)

 

There is also a working wood-mill, and a working gristmill, etc., where again docents will talk about the history of the building, and do demonstrations of the function the building fulfilled, usually allowing young kids to be involved in the safest jobs.

In the Mill, the docent also pointed out to us a board in the building where locals had sketched outlines of their most recent catches, comparing sizes, listing dates, etc.

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Then there was also a downtown area of the village where there were stables, complete with the local masonic lodge (with all its secrets revealed, and explained)

and a doctor’s office, with all the doctor’s tools of the day:

They even had the historic home of the riches man in town, complete with a lot of the family antiques — this home is locked up, and wait outside on the porch for the docent to bring you in for a tour.

I was there during an off day, but still about 1/5 of the buildings had docents in them. Apparently if you come during their scheduled activity days, weekends, etc., all the building will have docents who are either explaining, or giving trade and cooking demonstrations of lost skills.