Georgia Southern University

National tour of Benjamin Franklin exhibition will visit Henderson Library in 2009

The Zach S. Henderson Library at Georgia Southern University has been selected to host a nationally renowned traveling exhibition that celebrates the fascinating life of one of America’s Founding Fathers.

‘Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” will be on display at the Henderson Library for six weeks in March and April of 2009.

Georgia Southern will be the only institution in the state to host the exhibition, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The national tour will visit just 20 libraries in 18 states.

‘We are pleased and honored that this tribute to Benjamin Franklin is coming to our campus,” said W. Bede Mitchell, the dean of the Henderson Library. ‘It is an educational and entertaining exhibition that will appeal to both children and adults, and we hope that people throughout the region will take advantage of this opportunity to learn about a true American icon.”

‘Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” is based on the major exhibition of the same name that was on display at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa., through April 2006. The original exhibition coincided with the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth.

Academic and public libraries from across the country that were interested in hosting the traveling exhibition were required to submit proposals to the American Library Association (ALA) Public Affairs Program, which made the final selections.

Information Services Librarian JoEllen Broome made the proposal to the ALA on behalf of the Henderson Library.

‘We are very proud of JoEllen Broome for writing the excellent proposal to bring the exhibition to Georgia Southern,” Mitchell said.

Covering 1,000 square feet, the traveling exhibition features six sections of colorful, freestanding photo panels that incorporate representations of artifacts from the original exhibition.

The content is arranged in thematic sections that focus on Franklin as a youngster in Boston, his family and personal life, and the years in which he built his business as Philadelphia’s premier printer.

The exhibition also looks at Franklin’s commitment to public service, his interest in medicine and public health, and his work in science and philosophy.

Finally, the exhibition will examine Franklin’s contributions to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other major historical documents.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Henderson Library will sponsor a series of programs that are free and open to the public. In addition, school children from throughout the area will be invited to visit the library and tour the exhibition.

Mitchell believes the parts of the exhibition that deal with Franklin’s work in science will be of particular interest to students of all ages. He noted that educators and employers all over the country have been expressing alarm about the declining interest in science and mathematics by many young people.

‘We want school kids and our own undergraduates to visit this entertaining, informative exhibition where scientific achievement is highlighted,” Mitchell said. ‘The exhibit will demonstrate that science is for everyone, that it is a rewarding pursuit and that it has been part of our history from the earliest days of our nation.

‘All aspects of science ┬áthe diligence, the sweat, the fun and the financial rewards ┬ámay be found by observing what this early celebrity scientist accomplished.”

The exhibition’s tour of the country will begin in December 2007 and conclude in June 2011. The programs associated with the exhibition during its stop at Georgia Southern will include a series of lectures by members of the University faculty.

The opening lecture will be presented by Johnathan O’Neill, a Constitutional historian in the Department of History. He will discuss Franklin’s efforts to win France’s support during the American Revolution and his work during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Printing Management Professor Donald J. Armel will present an overview of major breakthroughs in the printing industry and talk about Franklin’s early contributions to printing.

Department of Physics Chair Mark Edwards will discuss the physics of electricity and the debt owed to Franklin, who is associated with the beginning of the understanding of electromagnetic phenomena.

School of Economic Development Professor John H. Brown will lecture on the entrepreneurial spirit that led to Franklin’s personal wealth and his impact on banking and insurance.

Also, Elaine McDuffie, the children’s librarian at the Statesboro Regional Public Library, will host a workshop in which middle and high school students will make their own kites.

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