The Smyrna History Museum is back in business after undergoing a major remodel.
The free museum on Atlanta Road across from Village Green officially reopened Sunday after announcing it would be temporarily closing last summer.
Housed inside a replica of the city’s former train depot, the museum contains artifacts from ancient times to the modern day.
Among the oldest are pieces of pottery used by Native Americans, including a bowl which may have been used to mix medicine or paint and a large jug that was pieced back together by archaeologists.
The more modern artifacts include an old traffic meter, a Campbell High School marching band hat, a baseball signed by Campbell’s 1964 AAA regional champion team and a photo of the city’s most famous resident, actress Julia Roberts.
Museum manager Jennie Eldredge said the refurbishment was a collaboration between the city, which runs the museum, Chamblee-based Building Four Fabrication and the Smyrna Historical Society.
Eldredge said the museum would not be possible without the work of former Mayor Harold Smith, who collected and preserved historic artifacts for years.
Smith watched on with a smile as visitors including council members and county commissioners browsed the collection.
“It looks good. It’s not like it was when I started it,” he said with a laugh.
Eldredge said one major goal of the refurbishment was to create interactive elements for children to enjoy.
“We really wanted to make sure there was a way for kids to come in and have fun, do hands-on history rather than just have dry stuff on the walls for them to read,” she said.
Many of the museum’s artifacts are inside display drawers, which children have to open up if they want to take a peek. Other interactive elements include a station to practice Cherokee basket weaving, a floor map of the area’s historic rail lines along with toy trains for kids to play with, a “design your own city” sliding puzzle, a post card making station and a replica Civil War rucksack that kids can lift to see what kind of weight the troops carried around.
The Civil War relics include unexploded shells and a model of a shoupade built by famed historian and author Bill Scaife.
A shoupade was a type of fortification used by Confederates in an attempt to keep the Union troops away from Atlanta. They’re made from logs and piled earth, shaped like a wedge, and were manned with sharp-shooting riflemen, according to Smyrna Historical Society board member Mike Terry.
“General Sherman was smart enough to know that he couldn’t overrun them because these were interlocking and between each one of these, there were cannons,” he said. “So if you charge these, the cannons are going to wipe you out, and the sharpshooters will pick you off after that.”
The fortifications were named for Brig. General Francis A. Shoup, who developed the earthworks as part of the River Line series of fortifications. Confederate forces built three dozen Shoupades in 1864, and nine of them remain.
Unfortunately for the Confederacy, Sherman didn’t get to be general by charging his men into traps, Terry said.
“So as soon as Sherman saw this – and they ran from Smyrna all the way down to the covered bridge – he said, ‘Boys, if we do this, we will not take Atlanta, and our goal is to take Atlanta.’ So they just went around them. … They went up toward Roswell and crossed the Chattahoochee up there,” he said.
The museum first opened in 1992 and moved to its current location in 1999. Eldredge said she hopes the redesign will encourage people to make repeat visits. If they do, she said they may have a different experience every time. The museum is designed to have a rotating selection of artifacts.
“Because we only have 1,500 square feet of exhibit space and we have thousands of items in the collection, we can switch them out every once in a while,” she said. “The drawers are all customizable, we can take the lids off and I have the keys, I can put different items in, then we have a temporary gallery we plan on switching out every six months. It’s a way for us to utilize as much space as we could and as many interchangeable parts as we could.”
The Smyrna History Museum is at 2861 Atlanta Road and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Wednesday. For more information, call 678-631-5423.