To kick off the festivities, Connie Sutherland, director of the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, will deliver a presentation at 7 p.m. about Margaret Mitchell and her Civil War novel. Born in Atlanta in 1900, Mitchell penned “Gone With the Wind” over the course of 10 years, with the movie version premiering three years afterward on Dec. 15, 1939. With the Civil War and Reconstruction in Georgia serving as its backdrop, “Gone With the Wind” garnered Mitchell the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937.
“Because Margaret Mitchell is one of my favorite subjects, I will be sharing the little-known side of her and who she really was to friends and family,” Sutherland said. “There is so much more to her than ‘the book’ that I feel will be of great interest to the audience members. But, with that in mind, I also know that ‘Gone With the Wind’ lovers want to hear about the famous author and her book so there will be no shortage of information on that subject either.
“What most people are unaware of concerning Mitchell are her philanthropic endeavors. She was very involved in the war efforts in the 1940s and I will definitely talk about some of the things she did in that area. There are a great many areas in which positive change was affected thanks to Margaret Mitchell.”
Over the past 10 years, Sutherland said museum patrons often ask why Mitchell’s novel is such a classic and connects with various generations.
“... As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the film this year, I realize more and more the impact that ‘Gone With the Wind’ — the book and movie — has had, and continues to have on the public,” Sutherland said. “New-found fans visit the museum on a daily basis. A family of four might arrive for a tour and one would automatically assume the mother is the one who prompted the visit. But, more often than you might think, it’s the 15 year-old daughter who has seen the movie or read the book for the first time and is now in love with Rhett and Scarlett.
“The impact of Mitchell’s story is one whose fandom spans generations as well as miles. We have had international visitors from more than 70 countries and from all 50 states. During our 70th and 75th anniversary special events, we saw visitors from more than half the United States as well as from Poland, Italy, Great Britain and Germany. Chinese delegates visited Marietta a couple of years ago and toured the city with some of our city officials to learn about the running of the city government. They were taken to the police and fire departments and shown the workings of city hall and provided an insight into the business side of how a city operates. The only other location they requested to visit was our museum. I translated our brochures to their language and was able to provide them with a tour. They thoroughly enjoyed it and so did I.”
Sutherland continued, “These are examples of how many diverse individuals ‘Gone With the Wind’ touches even today. The reason? I believe it to be the message of survival conveyed in the story. Everyone who reads the book or sees the film relates to the struggles of war and those [whose] personal lives were affected by it. Survival is the common thread that runs through ‘Gone With the Wind’ and also our lives.”
Formed in 1987, the Cartersville museum welcomed about 12,000 visitors last year. Since Dec. 10, 2010, the venue’s gift shop, multi-purpose room, and permanent and temporary exhibits have been housed in the 1869 Courthouse, 4 E. Church St., under the Church Street bridge. Divided into six galleries, the permanent exhibits include “A Sense of Place,” “Bartow Beginnings,” “Community Champions,” “People at Work,” “The Coming War” and “Toward New Horizons.”
“The ‘Gone With the Wind’ exhibit that will open Thursday night is really an extension of our current temporary exhibit on Civil War and Bartow County,” BHM Director Trey Gaines said. “So it’s a smaller exhibit to just highlight some of the ‘Gone With the Wind’ materials that we have here in our collection. So it consists of a set of lithographs or drawings that were done back in 1989 by an artist, who was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the movie release.
“This being the 75th anniversary, we’re bringing them out just to showcase them. [Some of] the other items [are] we have a couple of rare copies of ‘Gone With the Wind,’ rare and unique copies of the book that we’ll put out. Another item that has direct links to Bartow County is a party favor that Margaret Mitchell sent to all the participants that attended the 1937 Cartersville High School Junior-Senior banquet that was held at the Braban Hotel. We’d love for people to come in and see the exhibit and remember the first time they saw the movie or what the movie has meant to them over the years. I think one of the things that Connie Sutherland is going to talk about is why the movie and Margaret Mitchell’s book is still being talked about 75 years later. So this is just a way to generate conversation and memories of the novel and the movie.”
For more information on the BHM and its offerings on Thursday, call 770-382-3818, ext. 6288 or visit www.bartowhistorymuseum.org.