Perspective Online

The Chamber Meets the Historical Society

by Dr. Randy Hendricks

Dr. Ann McCleary and her students in the Center for Public History were instrumental to the success of the third annual West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail Conference, held March 19-20 in Dalton. The center administers the trail’s operations, and UWG students coordinated conference planning and led the way in marketing.

The Chamber Meets the Historical Society

Center for Public History faculty and students with historian Kevin Fontenot and performer Mick Kinney.

The conference provides an excellent example of UWG’s partnering with state and community organizations and industries, in this instance with the Georgia Humanities Council, Shaw Floors, the Dalton Little Theatre, the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Dalton-Whitfield Community Foundation, the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, which hosted the event at Crown Gardens and Archives. The conference was attended by representatives from academic institutions, city and county historical societies, and chambers of commerce from across the state.

The theme for this year’s conference was centered on using the arts to build heritage tourism. The program featured a theatre workshop, a lecture and performance combination on “Mill Town Music,” and a presentation on opportunities for partnering with the Georgia Council for the Arts by executive director Karen Paty.

To many present the highlight was clearly the keynote delivered by Dr. Douglas Flamming, Professor of History at Georgia Tech, who held the audience spellbound with humor and humanity as he spoke of the research he conducted in the 1980s for his book Creating the Modern South: Millhands and Manager in Dalton, Georgia. Ashly Callahan also spoke on her research for her forthcoming book, Southern Tufts: The Regional Origins and National Craze for Chenille Fashion.

But as a dean, the biggest takeaway for me came from Bruce Green and his team from the Georgia Department of Economic Development with their presentation, “Creating Your Heritage Tourism Products.” Those of us who work in the arts and humanities believe in and promote the inherent value of cultural production and preservations. But Bruce reminds us of the economic impact of that work in terms of jobs created in the field and revenue generated. “You can’t export Stone Mountain,” he is fond of saying. His team presented research suggesting that on average the heritage tourist spends $62 more dollars a day than the recreational tourist and is more likely to stay overnight in areas of local heritage interest.

The Center for Public History’s work on the West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail promotes heritage tourism in communities from Dalton to Columbus. Through this work, UWG is opening doors for significant economic development for the state of Georgia.

Dr. Randy Hendricks is the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

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