Exhibit shows life in Coweta during WWII
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The first exhibit at the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s McRitchie-Hollis Museum opens Saturday, and will run through May.
“Victory at All Costs” interprets life on the Coweta home front during World War II.
“I think it is going to be a great exhibit and we can’t wait to share it with everybody,” said Jeff Bishop, NCHS coordinator.
Hours are 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Curators have selected objects from both the NCHS’s permanent collection and items on loan from members of the community to help tell the story of how Newnan and surrounding communities “geared up” and adjusted to life in Coweta during WWII, said Keri Adams, co-curator for the exhibit and interpreter with the McRitchie-Hollis Museum.
Items on loan include medals and personal telegrams from the Beers family, a Navy uniform worn by Clifford Glover Jr., 1940s-era toys from Tom Camp, and a program from the ceremony in which Newnan Cotton Mills received an award for wartime production.
These items and more are staged throughout the Peniston-Arnall-Thomasson Home, now the McRitchie-Hollis Museum, at 74 Jackson St.
“The 1937 home-turned-museum is the perfect venue to house a World War II exhibit about how Coweta was impacted during the war,” said Adams.
“It was easy to imagine” the residents of the home “sitting in the living room listening on the radio to the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been attacked,” Bishop said. “We thought — this is a great opportunity to make this all come to life.” In addition to a wide variety of artifacts, visitors will also see more than 50 informational panels.
And there will be several “QR” codes that can be scanned by smartphones. “You can scan the QR code and then suddenly Roosevelt is there on your phone giving the address,” Bishop said. Next to a poster about the need to recycling kitchen scraps is a code that will send visitors to a propaganda video by the War Department.
Visitors with smartphones will also be able to see a few propaganda videos made by Walt Disney.
The home was built by the president of Arnall Mills, Ellis Peniston, and his wife, Mildred Arnall Peniston. The exhibit highlights letters written by Mildred to her nephew and Newnan native Dr. Ellison Cook III while he was stationed in Europe as a medic during the war.
The exhibit was nearly complete when Peniston descendants came to visit, bringing the letters. They were written on Mrs. Peniston’s stationery, with the address of 74 Jackson Street.
“This really brings it home,” Bishop said. “You can really imagine Mildred sitting at this desk and writing to her nephew… it really brings to life the story of … people living on the home front and fighting the war on the home front.”
Donating the letters were Mildred Arnall Cook, Mary Frances Waters Engle, Nora Catherine Cook and Jeanne Kresch Cook Overacre, who recently made a visit to the home.
The exhibit also features a hands-on activity for children and art work from a class of the Young Artists of Newnan and Coweta County that is inspired by WWII-era hats donated to the NCHS by State Representative Lynn Smith, which will be displayed alongside the art as well. Students have researched the history of the individual hat styles. There are a selection of games from the World War II era, including several Slinkys. “We have some Slinkys and we have some stairs,” Bishop said. Children will also get to experience playing with jacks and pick-up-sticks.
“I’m excited we can involve kids, not only experiencing it from an audience standpoint, but also in curating part of an exhibit,” Bishop said.
Additionally, McRitchie-Hollis staff is planning public programming for the exhibit in the upcoming months.
Admission to both the museum and the exhibit is $5 per adult, $2 per child 12 or younger and seniors, and free to all NCHS members.
Parking for the museum is located in the old Newnan Hospital lot on Carmichael Street.
Those needing more information about the exhibit or museum, or would like to join the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, should call 770-251-0207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .