World-class museums off the beaten track

Located well north of Atlanta’s busy airspace, Carterville Airport is served by FBO Phoenix Air, where the staff can help arrange car hire, and also have experience in emergency medical transport from anywhere in the world. You may have heard of the company several years ago when it developed a special isolation pod and used it to transport the first of several Ebola patients to the United States from the West Africa.

Since, Carterville became much better known as a destination museum that punches well above its weight.

Thanks to an anonymous local donor, the small town of 23,000, located on Interstate 75 about 40 miles north of Atlanta, is home to the Booth Western Art Museum, the Tellus Science Museum and the new Savoy Automobile Museum. The Bartow County Local History Museum completes the 350,000 square feet of museum space.

Although located off the beaten path, 400,000 people are expected to visit Georgia’s four museum properties this year, two of which are Smithsonian affiliates.

Booth Museum of Western Art

Why is a great western art museum located in Georgia? Well why not?

For those of us who grew up with the movies of John Wayne and Roy Rogers, the West has always had an appeal, and the museum’s original slogan was “Visit the West without leaving the South”. Today he uses “See America’s History”.

Located in a massive 120,000 square foot three-level building in downtown Cartersville, the Booth Museum opened in 2003 and was expanded in 2009. In addition to many large interior galleries, there is a garden of outdoor sculptures. Guided tours are available daily.

For three consecutive years (from 2020 to 2022), the USA today The Readers’ Choice Awards ranked the Booth Museum not only as the best Western art museum in the country, but also as the best art museum.

Tellus Science Museum

If you’re looking for a museum that combines dinosaurs, geology, gems, transportation, space exploration, and a kids’ zone with hands-on activities, Tellus is the place.

Although intended to expose school-aged children to many forms of science, there is plenty to interest all ages in this 125,000 square foot museum. The first of four main galleries features large dinosaur fossils that fans of jurassic park movies will recognize. There are also giant marine reptiles and Ice Age mammals.

For aviation enthusiasts, the Science in Motion gallery offers a life-size exhibition Flyer Wright replica, a restored 1948 Bell 47 helicopter and the cockpit of a 1967 Lockheed JetStar.

There are also several examples of early automobiles, including one made almost entirely of wood and steered by a tiller.

Since the Cartersville area has been the site of significant mining activity for generations, the museum’s mineral and gem exhibits are truly world class.

One exhibit of particular interest features a baseball-sized meteorite that crashed into the roof of a vacant Cartersville home in 2009 and ended its cosmic journey on a bedroom floor. Proving that the sky was indeed falling that day, the exhibit includes a section of the house’s roof featuring a large hole.

Savoy Automobile Museum

The newest addition to Cartersville’s museum menu is the 65,000 square foot Savoy Automobile Museum, which is located on a 37-acre campus suitable for hosting large outdoor auto shows.

The Automotive Presentation Theater of Savoie.  Photo courtesy of the Savoie Automobile Museum.

Opened last December, the museum comprises four galleries housing exhibits and artwork dedicated to different groups of automobiles. Currently, there are examples of classic, orphan, timbered, and racing cars.

A 1948 Tucker Torpedo was one of the “orphan” automobiles on display when the museum opened. A presentation on the unique car by two of Preston Tucker’s great-grandsons sold out quickly and more presentations are regularly added to the schedule.

In an effort to inspire at least four visits to the museum each year, the exhibits change regularly.

Bartow History Museum

Located in a two-story former courthouse next to the Booth Western Art Museum in downtown Cartersville, the Bartow History Museum gives visitors a glimpse of life in the area from the early 1800s to today.

Gallery War is hell.  Photo courtesy of Booth Western Art Museum.

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