Phyllis Mack fixes the hat on a mannequin that will be part of a new exhibit at the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro. Mack is an information specialist at the museum.
The road that leads to Tara is about to get a little longer.
Clayton County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau officials confirmed exclusively to Clayton News Daily, the sister paper of the Gwinnett Daily Post, Wednesday that an expansion of their “Gone With the Wind”-themed Road to Tara Museum is under way at the old train depot in Jonesboro.
Old office space is being converted into new exhibit rooms featuring the county’s real-life role in the Civil War, said spokeswoman Danielle Conroy.
“It’s going to focus on the Atlanta Campaign and the Battle of Jonesborough,” said Conroy. “It’s coming at a really important time because we’re getting ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the film version of ‘Gone With the Wind’ and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Jonesborough next year.”
The expansion of the Road to Tara Museum is expected to be completed next month and is the first of many projects and programs the convention and visitor’s bureau is planning to commemorate the anniversary of the film and the battle in 2014.
Beth Bailey, the bureau’s marketing director, said the full list of activities is being kept under wraps for now, but she promised county residents will likely find out in the coming weeks what those projects will be.
“By Aug. 1, you should know everything we’ve got planned for the next 18 months,” she said.
Many people know the fictional Tara plantation from “Gone With The Wind” was located in Clayton County. What may not be as well known, however, is the role Jonesboro — or Jonesborough as it was known at the time — played in the fall of Atlanta during Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The Battle of Jonesborough was fought at the end of August 1864, as Union forces sought to cut off the railroad line that connected Atlanta with Macon. It was the last of the rail lines going into Atlanta to be targeted. With the fall of Jonesborough and the rail line that ran through it, Sherman’s army quickly took Atlanta.
Stately Oaks Plantation hosted separate re-enactments of the battle and the town’s evacuation for years, but it has been nearly half a decade since either was staged in the county.
Frenda Turner, the bureau’s interim executive director, said construction on the new exhibit rooms has been completed and panels explaining the war history are now being installed. After that, some museum pieces are expected to be installed and the expansion should be completed just in time for the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Jonesborough.
Turner and Bailey said the convention and visitor’s bureau is using the same Forest Park-based construction firm that built the main exhibit space so the exhibit spaces will match in style. The Daughters of the Confederacy has helped gather research for the new exhibit area.
Turner expects the expansion will complement the “Gone With The Wind” portion of the museum nicely. Visitors will go through the new areas before they enter the main exhibit area where memorabilia related to the book and the film is displayed. Some of the space in the main exhibit area that had been used to focus on the Atlanta Campaign will now focus on additional “Gone With The Wind” information.
“It gives a little more of the actual history of what this county was like during the Civil War and that’s important because Jonesborough did play a big part in the Atlanta Campaign,” said Turner.