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Future of Newton County History Center becomes clearer
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Once architectural drawings for the Newton County History Center are received, the county plans to begin accepting bid proposals with construction slated to begin this June.

During a project meeting at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning Thursday evening, Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for the county, said the goal is to have the History Center open to the public by the beginning of 2009.

"Our goal is for it to be a hub," Delk said, adding that she saw the History Center as an epicenter from which tourists would be dispatched to the county's many historical attractions such as Gaithers Plantation and the Brick Store.

Located at the old county jail, the History Center is envisioned as the host of both local exhibits and traveling exhibits.

"We really want it to be a lively place because children are so hard to interest nowadays," Delk said.

Kathy Dixson of Avient Museum Services, the firm contracted by the county to assist in the development of the History Center, gave attendees an overview of the floor plans thus far for the old jail.

Once remodeled the History Center will have a new front porch complete with rocking chairs for visitors to relax in while they listen to audio recordings of fiddle music similar to that played 100 years ago at the jail.

The History Center's first floor will contain space for visitor orientation and a community meeting room where an introductory video on the history of the county will be shown. Restrooms and a small food preparation area will also be located on the first floor. The foyer of the History Center will present a history of the jail and its sheriffs.

The visitor orientation room will contain a map of Newton County's historic sites and reference information on these sites. Other historical resources will also be available for residents and tourists to study. The room will hold a small selection of items, related to the history of the county available for sale.

The History Center's community meeting room will house collapsible tables and stacking chairs to allow for flexible use of the space. One proposal is for the tops of the tables to contain "fun facts" about Newton County. Two-sided exhibit panels on the walls will be used to display both long-term exhibits and traveling exhibits. A flat-screen television will also be located in the room.

The first floor will hold two gallery rooms; one with changing exhibits created by the History Center and the other will hold interpretative panels on the sheriffs' historic living spaces at the front of the jail.

Galleries three, four and five will be located on the second floor. Gallery three will be used for changing exhibits on different parts of the county's history such as manufacturing and the American Indian tribes that lived in the county prior to the arrival of the colonists.

 Wall panels with a timeline of the county's history are also to be developed for this gallery space.

Gallery four will be developed as a long-term exhibit on episodes in the county's history and the different perspectives of different people. Tentatively called "On Common Ground but in Different Shoes," the exhibit will contain written, graphic, artifactual and audio-visual sources. Oral histories will also be incorporated into this exhibit. It is yet to be determined whether gallery five will contain permanent or temporary exhibits.

The second floor's jail cells will remain in place as removing them would be too expensive. Instead the jail cells will feature interpretative panels explaining more of the jail's history, construction and the uses to which it was put. The individual stories about various groups and individuals who were incarcerated will also be detailed on panels in the cells.

Throughout all of the rooms of the History Center small signs will be posted, describing what the original purpose of the room was when the building was used as a jail.