What a year it has been…. As I reflect back on all that has transpired over the last twelve months, a year that began with high hopes and great expectations changed rather dramatically. While we all know the struggles and challenges the last year has wrought, I am pleased to announce that progress has continued at Andalusia as we continue our efforts to restore the site, develop our collections, and continue programming.
On March 14, the museum closed as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. While we assumed this would have been a brief pause in our operations, the museum remained shut for all public tours and in-person programming through August 3. This closing unfortunately occurred during our peak tourism season, which resulted in the cancelation of some of our key public programs, including our annual observance of Flannery O’Connor’s birthday. While we lamented the loss of this engagement, the museum continued to fulfill our mission through our social media platforms, use of virtual tours, and programming partnerships with key stakeholders to maintain visibility during the shutdown.
Following consultations with campus leaders, we received permission to resume tour operations with stringent covid protocols in August 2020. With mask requirements, smaller tour sizes, and social distancing guidelines, I am pleased to say that our attendance has quickly recovered. We have continued to welcome visitors from around the world this fall who are interested to learn about Flannery O’Connor and her life at Andalusia.
Our efforts to restore the site have also not faltered, as we moved forward in our long-term goal of fully restoring Andalusia to the period in which O’Connor resided here. Examples include the painting of the Well House’s door, conservation work on the Main House’s roof, and the installation of a fire suppression system. Additionally, through the generous gift of Mike and Wendy Laidlaw, we were able to complete a massive expansion of the Peafowl enclosure. Finally, through the receipt of additional donations, we were able to conduct a series of archaeological digs that focus on the grounds around the main house and those adjacent to the Hill House. The information gained from this work will aid us in our ongoing restoration efforts.
Looking forward, I have great hope for brighter days ahead for us all. Through the work of our university administration and the leadership of the Georgia General Assembly, funds were provided in this year’s state budget to construct the long-awaited visitors center at Andalusia. This facility will include exhibition spaces, public programming areas, and other amenities that will provide greater services to our visitors, and allow the staff to fulfill their mission of telling the story of O’Connor’s life at the farm. Additionally, we will continue our archeological investigations of the property and resume restoration work on the home’s interiors. Great things lie ahead in the new year, and I am excited about what is to come!