Cartersville’s rock and mineral museum is undergoing a makeover to attract a wider audience and showcase its diverse exhibits collected through years of operation.
Jose Santamaria, executive director of the Weinman Mineral Museum, told GlobalAtlanta that donations to its collections over the years have made the exhibits more cosmopolitan than its founders envisioned.
“The museum opened about 25 years ago as an earth science museum and fossil collection, because of the mining history in the area,” he said. “Our main focus is to collect Georgia minerals, but over the years we’ve collected an array of international minerals.”
Mr. Santamaria said that the Weinman museum received rocks and minerals from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, to name a few. “We’ve got minerals from every continent except Antarctica,” he said. “Maybe not every country, but you’d be surprised.”
The museum also has several life-size casts of prehistoric animals, including a saber-toothed cat from Bolivia and two ocean-dwelling dinosaurs found in Morocco.
The museum’s board of directors has discussed expanding the facility for about five years, finally deciding that its popularity and potential warranted a full upgrade.
“As we had more school-kids, more visitation by adults and family programming, the board saw this as a successful program that could expand, with an acknowledgement of the need to support science education overall,” Mr. Santamaria said.
The mineral museum closed in July 2007 and will re-emerge as the new Tellus: Northwest Georgia Science Museum.
Mr. Santamaria said the name “Tellus” comes from a Roman goddess of the earth, also called “Terra,” in recognition of the museum’s founding as a rock and mineral exhibit. He hopes to drop “Northwest Georgia Science Museum” from the official title as the site becomes better known.
The new facility is to include mineral and fossil displays, a planetarium, transportation exhibit and hands-on experiments.
Other new amenities include a gift store, dining facility, an auditorium and four new classrooms to bring local students into the museum.
The new construction is being funded by a museum capital campaign and by donations. Anheuser Busch Inc., which has a brewery in Bartow County, and Birmingham, Ala.-based Vulcan Materials Co., a mining company with a long history in the area, are two of the companies with international operations donating to the museum.
Local companies and individuals have also given to the museum. A hands-on scientific education section is being named after the Collins family in recognition of their efforts to fund that part of the museum.
The Tellus museum is to open in early 2009 and Mr. Santamaria, who will retain his title at the new facility, said he hopes to appeal to a broad range of people.
“There’s a need for destinations that are science-based in our school systems, but also for the general public, lifelong learners and tourists,” he said. “We have in the past attracted international visitors, and we hope to make this a destination for them.”