SAVANNAH, GA (June 16, 2020) — Telfair Museums will be reopening its three sites in downtown Savannah beginning Friday, June 26. WSAV.com NOW reporter Claire Going has a closer look at the precautions they’re taking to keep visitors safe and exhibits you can look forward to seeing.
Telfair museums closed to the public in mid-March because of coronavirus concerns. With the museum’s reopening, they’re extending their most popular exhibition—the famous Bird Girl statue that became an international icon on the cover and movie poster of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
This marks the longest period of time the Bird Girl has been hidden from public view since she was moved to Telfair Academy in 1997.
“Usually, we can’t even get away with having her off-view for a day or even a few minutes,” Senior curator of education at Telfair Museums Harry Delorme said. “Because when we’ve had to move her from one building to another, visitors get really cranky if she’s not on view for fifteen minutes. So we have to be very careful and time her movements when we’re going to be putting her in a new exhibition.”
She’s currently featured in a special exhibition at the Telfair Academy, so visitors can learn about her history and Bonaventure Cemetery. Museum staff say they hope Bird Girl will welcome visitors back after a long hiatus.
“I suspect this is going to be the one work that many visitors who are coming back are requesting,” Delorme said. “This is the work that many of them want to see. It’s an icon, a symbol for Savannah, a symbol from that book.”
Museum staff have implemented a number of new health initiatives for visitors, including limiting capacity, regular deep cleanings, hand sanitizer stations, and reduced-contact admissions procedures.
“We’ll also request that visitors wear masks and we’ll have those available if anyone needs one. We also have some fun ones that staff will be wearing created by local artists,” Delorme said.
“So we’re going to try and have fun with that concept but we want to make sure that everyone stays safe. And that’s really the main thing. We want people to come out and enjoy the art, but really try to keep themselves and others safe.”
The museums, which share a single $20 admission fee, will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays. During the initial reopening phase, they will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Bird Girl History:
Bird Girl was created in 1936. There are four versions of the statue around the United States. The fourth and most famous statue was bought by a family in Savannah, Georgia, who named it Little Wendy and set it up at the family’s plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.
It was originally placed in Bonaventure Cemetery, where she sat virtually unnoticed until 1993, when Random House hired Savannah photographer Jack Leigh to shoot an image for the cover of John Berendt’s new book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
At Berendt’s suggestion, Leigh searched the Bonaventure Cemetery for a suitable subject. He found the sculpture next to a grave on the Trosdal family plot. The cover image was an immediate hit, and Berendt called it “one of the strongest book covers I’ve ever seen.” The book, published in 1994, became an all-time bestseller, and soon people began flocking to Bonaventure Cemetery to see the sculpture.
Due to concern about the amount of traffic at the gravesite, the Trosdal family had it removed from the cemetery and later lent it to the Telfair Museums in Savannah, for public display in their Telfair Academy building. In December 2014, the statue was moved from the Telfair Academy to the Telfair Museums’ nearby Jepson Center for the Arts. As of April 2019, she is in a special exhibit in the Telfair Academy.
The inscription below the statue reads, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. II Corinthians 5:8”