University of Georgia faculty and students are helping Washington County determine the feasibility of a museum to preserve the history of kaolin, one of Georgia’s top exports, and what such a place would look like.

Through the Washington County Archway partnership, students from the Terry College of Business Institute for Leadership Advancement and the College of Environment and Design visited Sandersville, touring the sites where the chalky white substance is mined. They also held community work sessions with local residents and explored Washington County.

“The size and character of each site presented unique opportunities and challenges and ultimately helped define educational exhibits that would work best at each site,” said Jennifer Lewis, outreach coordinator for the College of Environment and Design (CED).  “The team worked with local citizens to define what qualities make a museum experience memorable, toured kaolin mine pits, explored Sandersville, and created maps and illustrations to bring several museum concepts into focus.”

Interest in a museum about kaolin was piqued last year when David Dallmeyer, professor emeritus of geology at UGA, and spouse Dorinda Dallmeyer, director of the environmental ethics certificate program at CED, talked about the history of kaolin with Washington County and Sandersville leaders.

Kaolin is type of clay found in nature but can also be created in a laboratory. Often called white gold or chalk, it is used is a wide range of products including cosmetics and medicine as well as in in the manufacturing of china and pottery and as a paper coating.

Students from the CED explored conceptual designs for a museum, which could be located at a historic school, on vacant land in downtown Sandersville or on an open tract along the Fall Line Freeway.

The ILA students analyzed the feasibility of the project. The group presented plans that would work at each if the three sites identified.

“I loved the way a lot of separate, seemingly unconnected ideas funneled down into three excellent presentations at the end of the weekend,” said Kelly Cronin, who is finishing her Ph.D. in geology.

The Archway Partnership executive committee, which includes local leaders, will consider the next steps in the project.

Jayson Johnston, Director of the Development Authority in Washington County and Chair of the Archway Executive Committee, spoke a little about what the project, and Archway overall, means to the community.

“Everything the Archway Partnership does impacts my ability as an economic developer to be competitive and successful,” said Jayson Johnston, director of the Washington County Development Authority and chair of the Archway Executive Committee. “We have a team here with Archway. It’s not just local collaboration, but it’s state collaboration too.”


Writer: Baker Owens, baker.owens@uga.edu, 706-510-9622

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery