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Published on February 18th, 2013 | by The Local

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Take A Trip Through History At The G.W. Carver Museum

Take a journey through Dothan, and you will see peanut statues all over the city. And you should. Why? Because Dothan is “The Peanut Capital of the World” and proud of it. So, it makes sense that every year, Dothan hosts The National Peanut Festival. If you’ve ever attended, you know that a statue stands proudly to represent Dr. George Washington Carver. Nicknamed “The Peanut Man”, Dr. Carver had a profound impact on agriculture, especially in the South. Because of that historical significance, it would be strange for Dothan to have a Dr. Carver statue, peanut statues, but not a museum in his honor. Fortunately for the Wiregrass Area, there is such a museum dedicated to honoring the legacy of this great American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. Nestled in Downtown Dothan, the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum is a gem that many are still discovering. Once the Greyhound Bus Depot, this site now tells the tales of countless history-makers. From ancient Egypt to Alaska, the Civil War to the 2012 Olympics, the museum provides historical insight through captivating imagery and storytelling that educates and inspires visitors of all ages, ethnicities, and racial backgrounds.

Launching the museum was a labor of love that took more than a decade to come to pass; but, in 2000, with assistance from the Kappa Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Joe Donofro, and Slingluff Construction, the doors to the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum were opened for the first time. Founder, Dr. Francina Williams, enthusiastically took on the task of launching a museum that would serve as a tribute to the creative legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver and his historic impact on the economic prosperity of the South, particularly the Wiregrass. Dr. Williams also sought to honor many other remarkable African-Americans who have made substantial historical contributions.

The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum brings history to life with exhibits designed by Dothan’s famed muralist and artist, Wes Hardin. With daily tours that are free and open to the public, the museum houses captivating exhibits that include:

• Designing the World We Live In (An exhibit that demonstrates the impact African-Americans have had in literally shaping America by designing and building structures that are still standing today)

• Black Scientists, Inventors, and Explorers (An exhibit that demonstrates the impact African-Americans have had in shaping both America and many other countries around the globe, through remarkable scientific discoveries, inventions, and explorations)

In October 2012, Dr. Francina Williams passed the baton to the team at BFC Management, a local company which specializes in developing and implementing educational programs, and in November 2012 the museum unveiled its newest exhibit: Social Progress Heroes (A timeline exhibit that takes visitors on a journey through history, while highlighting significant events that have impacted our world).

In honor of Dr. Carver’s tremendous scientific accomplishments and contributions, The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum has launched the Peanut Pals: Discovery Zone. Aimed at sparking an interest for science in children grades K3 through 12th by performing a variety of hands-on, instructor-led science experiments, the program focuses on Chemurgy, which encourages experimentation with raw and organic materials. Dr. Carver himself attended two Chemurgy Conferences in the 1930’s, when it was just an emerging field. The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum staff believes that this program will create in children a desire to discover natural scientific remedies to problems affecting the Wiregrass area, as well as the global community. Through the Peanut Pals: Discovery Zone, the museum hopes to make an impact in local educational systems and to shine a light on Houston County’s commitment to progress in the competitive field of science.

As a museum striving to engage and educate all ages, ethnicities, and racial backgrounds, The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum also offers the following monthly events:

• “Discovery Zone” providing instructor-led, hands-on science experiments for students of all ages

• “Black History Bingo” featuring fun and fact-filled games for Senior Citizens

• “The Book Club @ The Carver Museum” for avid readers

• “Open Mic Night @ The Carver Museum” for local musicians, performers, and lovers of the arts

• “The Artist in You” Art classes for all ages (Instructor: Wes Hardin)

The museum’s commitment to reaching the community has also sent their staff into the Wiregrass area school system. With an interactive presentation that encourages student participation, the museum employee engages students by sharing information about Dr. George Washington Carver, as well as fun peanut and peanut butter facts. As Principal Blair at Selma Street Elementary stated, “I watched as seventy-five fifth graders listened with curiosity and participated with enthusiasm. Students were engaged throughout the forty-five minute presentation…” To date, the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum has shared the phenomenal contributions of Dr. George Washington Carver with hundreds of students, grades K3-12th. The museum is also a vast resource for home-school groups interested in providing an interactive, historical experience for their students.

Additionally, in an effort to expand its presence in the community, the museum staff greeted fairgoers at The National Peanut Festival for the first time in 2012. Over the course of ten days, alongside volunteers from both Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta Sororities, staff members introduced and reintroduced the museum to the thousands that were in attendance at the fairgrounds.

Dr. George Washington Carver’s impact and legacy will continue to be shared through the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum, as well as those it has reached. With visitors from all over the Wiregrass area, the United States and around the world, the museum stands as a great tourist attraction for the city of Dothan. Many have quoted Dr. Carver’s wise words, and the museum has also taken one of his quotes as their motto. So, if you have yet to visit this gem, you must add it to your list of places to see, as the G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum is destined to “Command the Attention of the World.”

The G.W. Carver Interpretive Museum is located at: 305 N. Foster Street, and is open Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. To learn more about the museum, or to schedule a tour or presentation for your school or home-school group, call: 334-712-0933 or visit: www.gwcarvermuseum.org

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