Wednesday, May 26, 2010

William Scarbrough House Recognized in New Historical Marker

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) and the Ships of the Sea Museum unveiled a new historical marker to recognize the William Scarbrough House on May 22.

William Scarbrough House architect William Jay first came to America at the age of 25 in 1817 after apprenticing in London during the classical style resurgence.  Bringing the tenants of neoclassicism with him to Savannah, Jay designed several houses, schools, banks and theatres during his brief stay in the city.  The Scarbrough House was designed for prominent shipping merchant William Scarbrough, and was locally known as “the Castle.” After periods of vacancy and use as a school, the building underwent a significant restoration in the 1990s after being acquired by the Ships of the Sea Museum.  Now commemorating maritime history, the William Scarbrough House still stands as one Savannah’s most elegant structures and one of the first examples of neoclassicism found anywhere in the South.  The marker text reads:


William Scarbrough House

Designed by noted English architect William Jay, this house was built for William Scarbrough, president of the Savannah Steamship Company.  Completed in 1819, it is an excellent example of the neoclassical style.  Scarbrough hosted President James Monroe here in May 1819 during the president’s visit to witness the launching of the S.S. Savannah on the world’s first trans-Atlantic steamship voyage.  For 84 years (1878-1962), the house served as the West Broad Street School for African-American children and later as the headquarters for the Historic Savannah Foundation from 1976-1991.  In 1996 the house was acquired by the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

Historical markers, which recognize people, places and events, tell the story of Georgia's past in a format that is accessible to residents and visitors alike and are an effective tool for economic development, encouraging local tourism and general state-wide interest.  GHS has administered Georgia's historical marker program since 1998, erecting over 150 markers statewide.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Telfair Museums to Join in Celebration of International Museum Day on May 18, 2010

At the Telfair, Museum Day guests will enjoy a reduced price of $10 each for Telfair Passes—a $5 discount off the regular price of $15. The Telfair Pass is valid for a one-time visit to each of the museum’s three venues—the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House, and the Jepson Center.

“In support of the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Telfair is honored to participate in Museum Day and to show our solidarity with museums across the continent,” said the Telfair’s director, Steven High. “We encourage visitors to take advantage of this special opportunity to visit Telfair Museums’ three unique sites at a substantial discount and experience our exciting exhibitions and cultural offerings.”

At the Telfair Academy, visitors may view The Story of Silver in Savannah: Creating and Collecting since the 18th Century—which includes more than 600 pieces of American and European-made silver connected to the city—as well as selections from the museum’s permanent collection on display in the Rotunda and the Sculpture Gallery. Installations from the multi-site silver show are also on view at the Jepson Center and the Owens-Thomas House. Current exhibitions at the Jepson Center include Philip Perkis: Fifty Years of Photographs andSoldier Portraits: Contemporary Wet Plate Collodion Photographs by Ellen Susan. Visitors to the Owens-Thomas House, one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in the U.S., are invited to take a guided tour of this historic house museum and rare intact urban slave quarters located on its grounds.

AAMD member museums—located across the United States, Canada, and Mexico—include smaller regional museums as well as large international institutions. International Museum Day is organized annually around the world by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

“We believe that art museums are crucial to our understanding of world history and cultures, and provide a unique and irreplaceable public service,” said Michael Conforti, president of AAMD and director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. “AAMD is committed to exploring new ways to underscore the value of the visual arts in civic society, and we are excited that Telfair Museums is joining with us and the global community of museums to focus on this message of public service.”

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lake-Bed Trails Tell Ancient Fish Story

The wavy lines and squiggles etched into a slab of limestone found near Fossil Butte National Monument are prehistoric fish trails, made by Notogoneus osculus as it fed along a lake bottom, says Emory University paleontologist Anthony Martin.

"This is a fish story, about the one that got away 50 million years ago," Martin says. "And I can tell you that the fish was 18-inches long, based on good evidence."

He led a detailed analysis, published May 5 in PLoS (Public Library of Science) One, that gives new insights into the behavior of the extinct N. osculus, and into the ancient ecology of Wyoming's former Fossil Lake.

"We've got a snapshot of N. osculus interacting with the bottom of a lake that disappeared millions of years ago," Martin says. "It's a fleeting glimpse, but it's an important one."

Fossil Lake, part of a subtropical landscape in the early Eocene Epoch, is now a sagebrush desert in southwestern Wyoming, located in Fossil Butte National Monument and environs. The region is famous for an abundance of exquisitely preserved fossils, especially those of freshwater fish.

Trails left by these fish, however, are relatively rare. The National Park Service had identified about a dozen of them and asked Martin to investigate. Martin specializes in trace fossils, including tracks, trails, burrows and nests made by animals millions of years ago.

One of the fish trace fossils especially intrigued Martin. In addition to apparent fin impressions of two wavy lines, it had squiggles suggesting oval shapes. "The oval impressions stayed roughly in the center of the wavy lines and slightly overlapped one another. I realized that these marks were probably made by the mouth, as the fish fed along the bottom," Martin says.

He then deduced that the trace was likely made by N. osculus - the only species found in the same rock layer whose fossils show a mouth pointing downward.

Martin brought his detailed notes, photos and sketches of the trace fossil back to Atlanta, where he enlisted the aid of disease ecologist Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec and geographer Michael Page, two of his colleagues in Emory's Department of Environmental Studies.

Vazquez-Prokopec, who does digital spatial analyses of geographic patterns of diseases and pathogens, applied similar techniques to the trace fossil data. The results showed a mathematical correlation between the trace impressions and the mouth, tail, pelvic and anal fins of an 18-inch N. osculus.

"This provides the first direct evidence of N. osculus bottom feeding," Martin says. "Not only that, the fish was bottom feeding in the deepest part of the lake. Previous research had suggested that the bottom of the lake had such low levels of oxygen that it was hostile to life. Our analysis indicates that, at least seasonally, some fish were living on the lake bottom."

The scientists were also able to calculate how the fish was moving, and the pitch and yaw of its swimming motion. "The trace fossil lines look simple, but they're not so simple," Martin says, explaining that even the gaps in the lines carry information.

Page, an expert in cartography and geographic information systems, created a map of the discovery site, and a Web site that allows viewers to zoom in on different aspects of the fish trace.

"All three of us believe in making scientific data as open and assessable as possible," Martin says, adding that he thinks it may be the first collaboration between a paleontologist, a disease ecologist and a geographer. "This opens up a new technique for studying trace fossils that we hope other people will try and test."

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