Things New and Strange

A Southerner’s Journey through the Smithsonian Collections

Gerald Wayne Clough

Foreword by Lester D. Stephens

Things New and Strange

A Southerner’s Journey through the Smithsonian Collections

Gerald Wayne Clough

Foreword by Lester D. Stephens

A tapestry of southern history woven through an exploration of the Smithsonian collections

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  • Reviews

Things New and Strange chronicles a research quest undertaken by G. Wayne Clough, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution born in the South. Soon after retiring from the Smithsonian, Clough decided to see what the Smithsonian collections could tell him about South Georgia, where he had spent most of his childhood in the 1940s and 1950s. The investigations that followed, which began as something of a quixotic scavenger hunt, expanded as Clough discovered that the collections had many more objects and documents from South Georgia than he had imagined. These objects illustrate important aspects of southern culture and history and also inspire reflections about how South Georgia has changed over time.

Clough's discoveries-animal, plant, fossil, and rock specimens, along with cultural artifacts and works of art-not only serve as a springboard for reflections about the region and its history, they also bring Clough's own memories of his boyhood in Douglas, Georgia, back to life. Clough interweaves memories of his own experiences, such as hair-raising escapes from poisonous snakes and selling boiled peanuts for a nickel a bag at the annual auction of the tobacco crop, with anecdotes from family lore, which launches an exploration of his forebears and their place in South Georgia history. In following his engaging and personal narrative, we learn how nonspecialists can use museum archives and how family, community, and natural history are intertwined.

Things New and Strange is a powerful statement written by a humble south Georgian who has a passion for life-long learning. I think he inspires all of us on that quest to continue to learn and to continue to explore our own homes and communities.

—Ann E. McCleary, author of Food, Family, and Community: A Collection of Georgia Memories

Wayne Clough's distinguished career is one of pathbreaking accomplishment, from his boyhood home of Douglas, Georgia, earning a PhD from the University of California, and teaching at Stanford to becoming president of Georgia Tech and secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In Things New and Strange he takes another journey, a marvelously engaging intellectual and emotional one, through the collections of the Smithsonian's national museums. His lens is his southern rural home town and region, with ties to family, community, and nature that have helped shape his character and interests. Driven by a refreshing, almost 'kid in a candy shop' curiosity, Clough discovers, examines, and evokes items in the Smithsonian collections relating to South Georgia to find his own life, his own memories and horizons mindfully and heartwarmingly enriched. More so, as one of our country's educational leaders, Clough demonstrates in the most exemplary way how any American, or for that matter any citizen of the world, can use these increasingly digitized collections for self-discovery and find in them their own deep, personal connections to natural history, world events, and the American experience. Things New and Strange is beautifully written and inspiring to read.

—Richard Kurin, Distinguished Scholar & Ambassador at Large, Smithsonian Institution, and author of The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects

Secretary Clough draws on his vast experiences and the extraordinary and incomparable resources of the Smithsonian Institution to write this volume that skillfully celebrates the rich cultural and natural treasures of his home state.

—Frankie Snow, learning services coordinator in the Division of Natural Sciences, Physical Education, and Mathematics at South Georgia State College and winner of the Crabtree Award from the Society of American Archaeology

This book illustrates the value of what we as a society accumulate in museums, libraries, and archives and how those materials can be used to illuminate issues that are quite different from the original intent of collecting the materials. The sprawling collections of the Smithsonian Institution are used to illuminate former Smithsonian secretary Wayne Clough's personal journey through the history and prehistory of South Georgia.

—Scott Miller, Under Secretary for Collections and Interdisciplinary Support at the Smithsonian Institute

Dr. Clough, native son, combs the collections of the Smithsonian to honor his birthplace. Here he creates a geographical genealogy of sorts, exploring sense of place from a unique, science-based, cross-discipline angle. Although Clough is writing about my region, so much of what he unearths I did not know. This is an intelligent, thoroughly heartening book.

—Janisse Ray, author of Drifting through Darien

About the Author/Editor

G. WAYNE CLOUGH is secretary emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution. Clough, who currently lives in Atlanta, directed the Smithsonian from 2008-2014, and was president of the Georgia Institute of Technology from 1994-2008. He is the author of Seeing the Universe from Here: Field Notes from My Smithsonian Travels.