Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History turns 50

Young woman leans on fence around museum display of machinerySouthern Museum (photo courtesy of the City of Kennesaw)

The Southern Museum (full name Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History) in Kennesaw issued the following press release announcing their 50th anniversary:

Kennesaw, GA (March 4, 2022) — The Southern Museum opened fifty years ago on April 12, 1972, in historic downtown Kennesaw, Georgia. Originally called the Big Shanty Museum, it showcased the famous General locomotive and was dedicated to telling the story of the Great Locomotive Chase. The event, which took place 110 years earlier on April 12, 1862, elevated the engine and Big Shanty (today the City of Kennesaw) to prominence during the Civil War.

Over the next fifty years, the Museum grew in size and expanded its collection to include other artifacts from the Civil War period and railroading in the Southeast. In the mid-1990s, the Museum acquired and curated an impressive collection from the Glover Machine Works of Marietta, Georgia, the last builder of steam locomotives in the South. The name was changed to the Kennesaw Civil War Museum soon thereafter. Beginning in 2001, a two-year renovation and enlargement project culminated in a nearly 50,000 square foot facility housing three permanent exhibits: Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil WarGlover Machine Works: Casting a New South and The Great Locomotive Chase featuring the General locomotive. The name was changed, yet again, to the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The Museum expanded further in 2007 with the opening of the Jolley Education Center. The 8,000 square foot facility offers classroom space for programs and a dedicated area for the very young to play safely alongside older children. The Jolley Education Center also houses Georgia’s Merci Boxcar, a gift from the French people to the state of Georgia following World War II. The Southern Museum’s Library and Archives, which opened to the public in 2015, contains extensive documentary records, manuscripts and photographic materials related to the Civil War and railroad history in the South.

Today, the Southern Museum is a prestigious Smithsonian Affiliations member devoted to history and education. The Museum provides a family-friendly experience that fosters conversation about the strategic and economic use of railroads in the region during and after the Civil War. Annual events include the model train extravaganza Trains, Trains, Trains! in January, the African American History Month Celebration in February, the Women’s History Month Celebration in March, Civil War History Day in June, Railroad Rendezvous in July and All Aboard for Holiday Fun in December. Yearly educational programs include the Mommy & Me preschool program, the Homeschool Workshop Series and Sensory Friendly Afternoons.