So Marietta Councilman Stuart Fleming wants to maximize tourism revenues around the Square and is also thinking of trying to defund the historic and cultural venues around the city center. Does he not realize that these two goals are mutually exclusive?
All the large attractions in Cobb (Whitewater, Six Flags, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and our two large shopping malls, Town Center and Cumberland) are all some distance from downtown. Many of the people who come to these places never come downtown or just drive around and then go home. If Mr. Fleming has his way, they will never come. What would be the draw? We have a charming Square, some nice restaurants and shops, and a chronic lack of close-in parking.
Many of these people might come to the Square for a day or so if they knew our six museums and our cultural and artistic offerings existed. With the funding cuts of the last few years, there is very little budget for advertising. We could certainly use better signage, especially for the Marietta Museum of History and the Gone with the Wind Museum, whose address is on a street that does not exist.
At the History Museum, we have an entire warehouse full of artifacts given to us by the citizens of our city that we have neither the space nor the funding to exhibit.
If the Smithsonian is America’s attic, the History Museum is Marietta’s attic.
We once had an education officer who took trunk shows to the schools and taught the students about their own local history, but she had to be axed for financial considerations. (I say “we” because I volunteer at the Marietta Museum of History one day a week.)
I see how hard the staff works to try and keep the exhibits fresh and meaningful for today’s visitors. There are many people who come to the Museum researching ancestors or looking for information on buildings or businesses that no longer exist; students come to research projects; and we have interactive tours for toddlers once a month. I am sure that the other museums and cultural centers have similar offerings.
What gives a city its identity? Is it not the opportunities for the citizens (and tourists) to experience a wider world in both time and space, to use their creative interest in art, music, drama and dance to not only grow themselves, but to offer others a new and possibly more exciting vision for the future? Does Marietta really want to shut down the places where these things happen? What would Mr. Fleming offer in their place?
Perhaps if he and his cohorts actually visited the institutions they are so ready to defund, they might have a better understanding of how valuable a contribution every one of the organizations mentioned makes to the spirit of our city.