Fascinating music

‘Georgia on my Mind’ exhibition brings music history to Athens | Arts & Culture

Georgia has a long and complex history of music. Great Georgian artists such as Ray Charles and The Allman Brothers Band helped pave the way for music such as REM and the B-52s to thrive in the classical city.

Now, an exhibit at the University of Georgia offers a chance for people to see the connections and impact music has had on Georgia and fans across the state.

Open July 22 and on display until December 9, the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library presents “Georgia on My Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History,” an exhibit curated by graduate student Maggie Neel.

Jan Levinson Hebbard, exhibit coordinator at Hargrett Library, hired Neel in the spring of 2020. Neel began working on the exhibit’s script just before he was sent home due to the pandemic.

“I feel like that’s kind of what brought her [Neel] to the belonging aspect of the exhibit, because I think we all felt isolated and alone,” Hebbard said. “And it made him think about how music connects you to others, to history, to your heritage.”






“Georgia on my Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History” displays in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Friday, August 26, 2022. Located on the second floor of the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, the exhibition is free and open to the public. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)


Neel’s research process throughout the pandemic presented a challenge; Because she was isolated and unable to access documents, she took a reverse approach to writing the exhibit’s script.

“It was more of ‘I want to tell a story, here are the materials we have,’ not, ‘We have these materials, what story can we tell with it,” Neel said.

Neel’s mother introduced her to the Athens music scene.

“Athens made me realize that music is important and people go there…it builds community,” Neel said. “Georgia is a really good example of a really strong mix of people and bringing different genres and ideas to this place in a way that other cities maybe don’t have the same kind of mix.”

Hebbard and Neel have worked to separate the major subjects while emphasizing how they work together in the exhibition plan. The exhibition separately identifies scenes, genres and community, highlighting the importance of each category.

Neel made it a point to shine a light on Georgia’s entire musical history – she didn’t want it to be just what we know today.

“Georgia’s music history is not just 20th and 21st centuries, we’re thousands of years ahead,” Neel said. “Whether it’s people developing musical traditions that they bring or people in Georgia developing their own musical traditions.”

This exhibition is not only visually appealing, it is interactive. The exhibit features an “Instrument Petting Zoo” where visitors can play various instruments such as a ukulele, trumpet, and drum.

The instruments were donated by the UGA Community Music School, which offers music lessons to the community, and sit alongside tablets with videos from the HEART Music organization in Athens.

“HEART Music has this amazing website with many different professional musicians playing instruments. So that way you could kind of know what it is, how to hold it and what the sound is,” Hebbard said. “I see museums as really quiet places. I like the idea that we have music coming out of this room.







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“Georgia on my Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History” displays in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Friday, August 26, 2022. Located on the second floor of the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, the exhibition is free and open to the public. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)


Each room in the exhibition has various panels posing a question that visitors can answer anonymously on a post-it note.

A board asks, “What location, time, and genre would you combine to create your ideal music scene?” to which one visitor replied, “London during the 1960s and the rock genre.”

Another asks, “What kind of music do you prefer?” Another respondent wrote, “how can you choose?”

With answers to the question “Who’s your favorite musician with a Georgia connection?” ranging from soul artist Otis Redding to nu metal band Sevendust, it’s evident that an affinity for Georgian music is widely shared.

Sara Idacavage is a graduate student in textiles, merchandising and interiors. Idacavage participated in both the research and the installation of the performance costumes presented in the exhibition.

Idacavage’s intense research process was to show tactical quality and how each costume was customized just for its respected performer.

“My favorite thing about being a fashion historian is having an object without knowing anything about it,” Idacavage said. “I did some sartorial detective work to figure out ‘what’s the meaning? What’s the narrative? Why was this even recorded?’

Costumes from artists like Kenny Rogers to Cindy Wilson of the B-52s are on display at the exhibit, along with a “Performance Costumes Virtual Tour” video.

Idacavage said that she, Hebbard, and Neel came together as a “conservation team.”

“We wanted everyone to come and see something they could relate to, something unique to them and feel represented in the exhibit,” Idacavage said. “I feel like music is a way for people to see very clearly how important clothes are to our lives and to our identities and to being part of a larger group.”

The exhibition encourages comments from visitors and Athens music fans. There is a room dedicated to stories and memories donated by spectators and fans.

Titled “Silverchair shoes”, one of the displays is a pair of pink Converse on loan from former UGA Natalie Werve. In the excerpt accompanying the shoes, Werve describes the significance of these two shoes and follows Australian band Silverchair.







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“Georgia on my Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History” displays in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Friday, August 26, 2022. Located on the second floor of the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, the exhibition is free and open to the public. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)


“I wore these shoes on my trips to the US and Canada in 2007 to attend 28 Silverchair shows on their Young Modern tour. Inside the shoes I wrote the city and date of every show,” Werve wrote in the exhibit. “I have many stories from that tour, my time working in the music scene in Athens, and my love of live music that was rooted in the musical culture in Athens. This is all essential to who I am as a person.

Hebbard expressed his gratitude for those who donated their belongings and shared their love of music.

“I really want people to come and see how important music is to the community, where you’re from and your experiences and how that has influenced this type of music. There are no binaries and this music is not something that develops independently, it’s always through cross-references and a combination of influences,” Neel said.