Preserving Newnan High School history
by Celia Shortt
The history club at Newnan High School is preserving its school’s history through an upcoming student exhibit at the Male Academy Museum in Newnan.
Steve Quesinberry, chair of NHS’ history program, said Jeff Bishop with the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society recently approached him about some changes coming to the Male Academy museum and asked him if the history club would want to do an exhibit.
“We discussed ideas of what to do,” said Quesinberry. “We came around to Newnan High School, which has over 100 years (of history). It’s been important to this community, and so we thought that would be a good place to start because there are so many people — prominent people in the community or people who have gone on from here and done other things — who went to NHS.”
“It was Jeff’s idea,” said Troy Cornwell, a NHS history teacher involved with the project. “He brought it to the table. We liked it and decided to run with it. Really, what we’re trying to do here is just tell the story of Newnan (high school). It’s a human story. It’s a people story.”
“Just trying to tell the story of NHS… is tough for… us,” he added. “None of us are from Newnan. So, we really need help.”
To gain the needed help, Quesinberry, Cornwell, and the history club, led by senior student Jeremy Messer, are asking Newnanites to help in finding past and present NHS memorabilia.
The history club has created six content areas which the exhibit will cover and with with which they need help filling from people with a connection to NHS. These include:
• People — notable alumni, veterans, staff, present day students and parents who attended NHS.
• Sports .
• Fine Arts/Academic teams/Student Life.
• Geography — where NHS locations have been since it was created.
• The NHS classroom through the years.
They do not need any yearbooks, as the school has some as far back as the mid 1900s.
The students are taking the lead with this project, but the historical society plans to be a resource — providing space, facilities, some funding, and help.
“The high school is a great opportunity for us to partner with one aspect of the community and tell larger stories,” said Bishop. “There are a lot of natural born storytellers at the high school and we need to take advantage of their talents.”
“I think with the youth there is a lot that they bring to the table, perspectives that maybe we wouldn’t have,” he added.
The NHS history department will also be available to help the students in any way needed.
Bishop expressed the importance of the historical society partnering with the community.
“This is the community’s historical society,” he said. “It’s the community’s museum. We thought it would be a great idea to reach out to people in the community.”
Since announcing the project, NHS students have been quick to get on board with it.
“The kids are pretty excited,” said Cornwell. “I think they’re pretty excited to tell their story and their parents’ story and their grandparents’. This is a generational story.”
Cornwell’s purpose for doing this project is to put the history of NHS into the mainstream so that it is not lost.
“If we do not tell this story within a certain amount of time, a lot of stories will be gone forever,” he said.
As is a key element in Quesinberry’s classes, another purpose of the project is to allow people to experience the history of NHS, not just read about it.
“We want to connect the students a little bit with local history because our curriculum isn’t geared to local history,” he said.
“From the students’ perspective, that’s really our central focus … finding out what Grandma had in her closet, what kind of stories she has,” he added.
Messer also added that this project will help him and other students who want to go into graduate school for history to gain experience.
Currently, the history club hopes to have the project ready in May and have it up for six months to a year.
Bishop hopes it leads to more yearly opportunities for student exhibits.
“This is the first project of what I hope to be many projects of student curation,” he said.
If anybody had NHS memorabilia items, they would like to submit to the exhibit, or is interested in being a sponsor, they should contact: Troy Cornwell at email@example.com , Aaron Buck at firstname.lastname@example.org , or Steve Quesinberry at email@example.com . They can also call the high school.
The items will be on loan, carefully maintained, and returned once the exhibit is over. If any wish for their items to be permanently given, they should contact the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.