Researchers from the University of Georgia are seeking photographs and documents from residents to help chronicle the state's history before and during the introduction of electricity into rural areas.
For most people born after 1950 in Georgia, it is hard to imagine life without electricity. But for many people born before that date - particularly in rural areas of the state - the memories of life without electricity are hard to forget.
No running water, no refrigerators, no electric lights inside and outside, laundry day without a washing machine, milking cows by hand, watering crops with buckets and ditches. Even though private electric companies provided electricity to towns and cities around the state of Georgia starting in the late 19th century, these companies found providing electricity to rural places where customers were spread out over large areas to be cost prohibitive.
Most people living in rural Georgia couldn't get electricity until President Franklin Roosevelt authorized an act to establish a nationwide program to help bring electricity to rural places.
This program was called the Rural Electrification Administration, or the REA, and the landmark transition in the development of Georgia into a modern state is the subject of an upcoming exhibit, Power to the People at the Richard B. Russell Library, a political archives and museum at the University of Georgia in Athens. The exhibit will open in February 2005 and will run through December 2005.
The research and curatorial team at the Russell Library now is conducting a survey across the state to document stories, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts, letters, diaries, speeches and other paper records that tell the history of rural electrification and its impact in Georgia.
This information will help the Russell Library staff identify objects, images, memories and ideas for the REA exhibit, and the survey will also become an important information resource for the library's archives.
The Russell Library would like photographs of everyday life both before and after electricity as well as images of events and people directly involved with the coming of REA and the establishment of EMCs around Georgia.
In particular, the library is looking for:
- Images of farms and households and activities associated with each from before and after the coming of electricity (kitchenscapes, farm yards, watering crops, milking cows, raising chickens, doing laundry, cooking, etc.)
- Images of the advertising of REA and electricity to rural Georgia consumers (fairs and circuses where the wonders of electricity were presented, demonstrations of electricity by extension agents)
- Images of the construction of electric lines from the 1930s and 1940s
The library also wants documents, diaries, handbills and posters, artifacts and memorabilia of everyday life both before and after electricity as well as images of events and people directly involved with the coming of REA and the establishment of EMCs around Georgia.
- Examples of early electric household appliances from the 1930s and 1940s (refrigerator, washing machine, iron, cook stove, etc.)
- Examples of early electric farm equipment
- Documents, banners and memorabilia related to the establishment of Georgia EMCs and the advertising of REA in general
- Examples of early electrical equipment (wiring, bulbs, plugs and outlets)
- Tools used by lineman
- REA badges from utility poles
Centerpieces to this project are the memories and experiences of rural Georgians who lived through the transition. To gather these memories, the Russell Library will be conducting some oral history interviews, and the staff has developed a series of questionnaires geared toward capturing the specific experiences of rural Georgians with the coming of electricity.
Information about the upcoming exhibit, as well as a detailed list of items the Russell Library is requesting for loan or donation is available on the library's Web site (www.libs.uga.edu/russell).
This list is also available upon request. To learn more about this project and how to participate, contact Jill Severn or Nikki Mottley at the Russell Library by calling (706) 542-5766, sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or sending mail to: Attn. Jill Severn; Richard B. Russell Library; UGA Libraries; Athens, GA; 30602-1641.
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