To tell the heroic tale of the Mighty Eighth Air Force requires more than a simple history book or channel can handle. At the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, displays of tangible, lovingly preserved relics preserve the harrowing and inspiring stories of the Eighth Air Force's greatest achievements, paying respect to those who risked, and often lost, their lives. The exhibits narrate how the Mighty Eighth earned its nickname as the all-time largest air armada for its role in World War II, and a combat gallery of scale models and authentic flying machines, including a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that's now being painstakingly restored, allows visitors to nab up-close views of the planes that made it all happen. Other exhibits detail how the men and women of the Eighth helped repel the Nazi menace, while the memorial gardens and Chapel of the Fallen Eagles salute all of those in the armed forces from WWII through today.
In 1820, an upwardly mobile carpenter named Isaiah Davenport designed a 6,800-square-foot Federal-style home to live in with his wife, children, and slaves. After his death, Davenport’s wife turned the stately brick house into a boarding house, though it later devolved into a run-down tenement—until the Historic Savannah Foundation saved the landmark when it was threatened with demolition in 1955. The organization’s award-winning preservation, their very first effort, jumpstarted an organized preservation movement that spread across the entire port city.
Today, the Davenport House Museum’s rooms are filled with antique furniture from the 1820s, acquired after careful research relying on estate inventories and detailed artist renderings of long-ago games of musical chairs. These period-accurate tables and chairs join ceramics, textiles, and books to form the museum’s collection of about 500 historical items. Behind the home, where a carriage house, garden, and privy once stood, a garden designed by renowned landscape artist Penelope Hobhouse flourishes. After walking among its flowers, visitors can drop by the museum shop to pick up jams and jellies, books about Savannah, and reproductions of early 19th-century items.
St. Marys, the site of Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base?one of the world's two Trident submarine bases?was a natural choice for a museum devoted to the Silent Service. Yet the curators and collectors went above and beyond. The finished dive into deep-sea history is the largest of its kind in the South and the fifth largest in the country, giving a comprehensive look at life under the water.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is the fortuitous result of circumstance. In 1975, a committee from the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society gathered to found a history museum for Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. Meanwhile, local collector William Decker was studiously acquiring historical documents and artifacts from the area—a lot whose pieces numbered in the thousands. When Decker died, the collection passed on to his son, a noted altruist, and just like that the Amelia Island Museum had its bones.
Today, the museum's exhibits examine local culture of the Timucua Native American tribe, Spanish and French explorers, pirates, and Victorian-era residents. Curators have assembled the Women of the Port photography display to highlight women working in the local maritime industry.
Museum guides are not restricted to the grounds, and often helm tours of the island's haunted locales, historic Centre Street, and Fernandina Beach's north end—with a focus on history from the mid-18th to 19th centuries.
Operated by the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, the Heyward House is an antebellum home (ca. 1841) that offers daily tours of the restored home as well as walking tours of Bluffton's charming and eclectic historic district.
A year before her death in 1959, Ninah Cummer—an art collector, garden enthusiast, and civic leader—donated her riverfront home and art collection to the community, imploring her fellow citizens to help support the foundation of an art museum. In less than 10 years, the board of trustees transformed the abode into the verdant Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, adding to Ninah's original gift of 60 pieces until the collection included nearly 1,000 works of art.
Today, the permanent collection holds pieces that span more than four millennia, from 2,100 B.C. to the 21st century. An ancient Egyptian stone tablet intrigues viewers with cryptic hieroglyphs and stylized portraits while, nearby, Peter Paul Rubens' The Lamentation of Christ epitomizes the colorful, sweepingly histrionic style of the Baroque painters. American treasures include Gilbert Stuart's iconic portrait of George Washington—one of over 100 he painted in an attempt to perfect the likeness of the first president and design a killer mask for the White House Halloween party.
After getting their fill of indoor beauty, guests can head to the open air and vibrant scenery of the museum's gardens. Begun more than a century ago, the gardens crisscross with winding paths that take guests under the canopies of majestic oaks and alongside the Italian garden's shimmering reflecting pools.