Posts Tagged With: tourism

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

Anna Peters visits the Savannah History Museum, a museum noted for their use of local archaeology and artifacts in their exhibits.

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

On February 11, 2018, I paid a visit to the Savannah History Museum located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Tricentennial Park. Overall, I enjoyed walking through Savannah’s history from pre-colonization (before 1733) to our modern culture. I also had the pleasure of visiting two additional exhibits, one showcasing the life of Juliette Gordon Low and the other showing the material and artistic culture of southern quilters. The permanent exhibits included artifacts from pre-colonization to colonization, steam locomotion, a Savannah dentist office, the Revolutionary War, and public archaeology in Savannah. My two favorite exhibits of the self-guided tour were the Central of Georgia Railway Company and Dr. Belford’s Dental Office.

The Central of Georgia Railway Company was established in 1835 because cotton shipping through the Savannah port was diminishing. Their rails eventually stretched from Savannah all the way to Macon, GA. Ultimately, the initial process of building this large railway lasted eight years and was completed in 1843. At that time, it was the most extensive railroad in the world. The museum showcased many intact artifacts ranging from tickets, pay stubs, and handbooks to dishes, teaware, and conductor hats. The museum also has a life sized steam locomotive displayed in the middle of all the exhibits.

C of Ga

Objects from the Central of Georgia Railway displayed at the Savannah History Museum.

The other exhibit is a recreation of Dr. William T. Belford’s dental office. For over 60 years, he practiced dentistry here in Savannah working most of his time alone, with no assistant or receptionist. He also continued to use his older equipment well into 1970s until his death in 1980. He purchased his equipment in 1919, so just place yourself in his worn dentist chair and imagine his tools chipping at your teeth. Yikes! Displayed in cases below the reproduced office are some of these actual tools and aids for common teeth problems, with papers and little booklets applying to his work.


Part of William Belford’s Dental Office.

The Savannah History Museum should be on every tourist’s “to-see” list and even citizens that need a little brush up on their own town’s history. The museum does its job educating people on Savannah’s history by incorporating hands on activities and involving public speakers dressed in period clothing. Even the horrific wax figures can help a child or adult understand what it was really like to live in that period of time. The continuation of donations and public outreach can really make a big difference in future enhancement of the museum’s exhibits and continue to educate the oncoming generations.

For more information on visiting the Savannah History Museum, click here.

Another student reviewed the Savannah History Museum several years ago. See her posting here.

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Archaeology and You

Native Savannahian Mara Smith reflect on the benefits of public archaeology to Savannah and elsewhere in our next student blog post.

Archaeology and You

I was raised in Savannah. By that I mean, I was born in Candler Hospital right off of Derenne. When I was younger, my family took day trips into downtown Savannah. I remember my dad giving me little history lessons about the beautiful city. Like, how the cobblestones on River Street made their way there, or he would point out the tunnels that pirates would use to travel around the city (and I’m so gullible, I still believe them all). As I’ve gotten older, I don’t notice the history as much. Going into Savannah, I walk past monuments, statues, and placards memorializing significant sites as if they aren’t even there. I’ve done a few tours here and there. The Juliette Gordon Low house was one I visited, because even though I was never a Girl Scout, I can down a box of their cookies in less than ten minutes, and for that opportunity, I must thank Mrs. Low. Because I am a native Savannahian, I’ve begun to neglect the city’s history and stories that it’s trying to tell. What’s even crazier is the fact that there is more to be uncovered here, and it took me 21 years to find that out. There are so many ways that we as citizens of Savannah can be active in the uncovering of our city’s past that will be beneficial to so many.

The public can benefit from local archaeology. Having the local community participate in uncovering some of their city’s history provides “community links.” It gives those like me who are born and raised here a sense of connection to their city. There is a sense of identity that wasn’t there before. What’s so great about archaeologists reaching out to the public is that people of all backgrounds and ages can be welcomed to participate. The basics of archaeology and archaeological sites can be used to help even young students practice skills that they may never learn in school. Skills that include: scientific judgement, geography, and local history. On the other end of the spectrum, we have senior citizens who are wise and have experience. Including some of the eldest locals allows for information that isn’t written down, something equivalent to the oral traditions of Native American tribes. Our locals should be interested in Savannah’s history. Savannah is known for being one of the older cities in the United States, and to be able to say that as a citizen of Savannah, you participated in the uncovering of some of its history is incredible. Having new knowledge of the past will always add to the culture, community, and the preservation of history and will create a sense of pride in our city (even if some things uncovered may not necessarily deserve a round of applause).

If you didn’t already know, Savannah makes a lot of money from TOURISM. Do you have any idea what kind of influx of tourists we would get if we were to uncover some crazy old artifact in Savannah? Why do people even come to Savannah for vacation? Is it for the big oaks? The pralines? Is it because it’s one of the only cities you can carry open containers around? I used to find it hard to believe that some people actually come for the history! It’s eye opening to know that there are people out there who still enjoy and value the work of anthropologists and archaeologists. This encourages more digging! Because Savannah is already rich in history, there is more than likely no shortage of possible discoveries. The more uncovered, the more “authentic archaeology” there is to keep people coming back to our beautiful city. More tours! More outreach! More education! All of these can come from the research and work of archaeologists.

So, if you gain nothing from my little post, I hope you take away the importance of your participation in your home’s history. Maybe where you live doesn’t have the magnitude of history that Savannah does, but that’s all the more reason to reach out and help out. We as citizens have everything to gain, and nearly nothing to lose from local archaeology. Learning about our past can give us insight that we never knew was possible. Keeping our city’s heritage, cultures, and traditions is all worth the little bit of effort our community can provide. Start by taking a class, or if you find yourself in Savannah, ask some questions or even better ask how you can get involved! Start small and learn something about Savannah that you didn’t already know. Expand your knowledge and when there’s nothing left on that subject, then start asking questions! Now is the best time to discover, preserve and educate.


25 Simple things you can do to promote the public benefit of archaeology.” National Register Publications, US Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

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