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Exploring St. Catherines Island

This fall, Georgians are invited to sift through the archaeological secrets of one of the state’s most well-preserved coastal treasures at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries Building. The exhibit “Exploring St. Catherines Island” lays out centuries of American history found in artifacts unearthed on the island, including pieces of pottery, shell tools, and other relics that date back to the 16th century.

Through drawings, writings, and other pieces of ephemera, the exhibit traces the island’s history from the establishment of indigenous towns through Spanish and English colonialism. The story told in the exhibit continues through the post-Civil War era, when the island became a refuge for formerly enslaved people, and into the 20th century.

A portion of the exhibit explores the work of archaeologists, led by David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History, who have toiled since the 1970s to filter through the layers of sand and soil to uncover the lives of early coastal Georgians. On display, visitors can explore the tools used in the fieldwork, read hand-written logbooks, and immerse themselves in the experience through photography and other memorabilia.

Exploring St. Catherines Island will remain on display through mid-December in the Hargrett Gallery. The Special Collections Libraries Building is located on the University of Georgia campus in Athens and is open to visitors for free from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with extended evening hours until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.