Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Warm Welcome

“The things we see, hear, smell and touch affect us long before we believe anything at all.” ~Flannery O’Connor

I must have been about eight years old the first time I was made ‘aware’ of Flannery O’Connor. My stepfather would on occasion wear a T-shirt that bore the illustration of a rather peculiar looking woman holding a Bible, with a peacock’s plumage in full regalia unfurled behind her.

It was not until many years later that I was finally given context for the odd looking woman that had been emblazoned across my stepfather’s chest. I acquired a copy of Noonday’s 1966 edition of Everything That Rises Must Converge from the used section of a bookstore – the “old book smell,” a mixture of musk and grass, permeated the yellowed pages. By the second page, I was in love. The spine of the book has since been reinforced with shipping tape, and the coffee and tea stains throughout are evidence not only my own clumsiness, but the many hours I have spent ruminating on O’Connor’s words – her profundity, her humor.

My appreciation of O’Connor’s writings, along with my love of the Georgia Piedmont in which I was raised, has fortuitously coalesced – and it is with great joy that I take on the role of Operations & Visitors Services here at Andalusia. While I have been in Milledgeville for just over two weeks, I am so appreciative of the warm welcome with which Andalusia, and my new home have received me. I am elated at the opportunity to work with such a laudable organization – and I look forward to the many collaborations, and friendships, that Andalusia has already proven to bear.

If you have an interest in volunteering or collaborating with us, feel free to contact me at – or find us on Facebook at, along with our volunteer group at I look forward to hearing from you!

April Moon, Operations & Visitor Services Manager
The Flannery O’Connor – Andalusia Foundation

Friday, March 21, 2014

Backyard redux

 "From the beginning, relations between these birds and my mother were strained."
- Flannery O'Connor

One of wonderful things about museum work is the idea of preservation. Preservation is like a thread that sews together past and future. Preservation can engage people in sentimental remembrance of things past (yes, like Proust and his Madeleine) but also introduces others to new things or activities that can still have relevance today but have been lost in a tide of time. For me, the exciting part of my work here at Andalusia is remembrance and discovery of life ways that were part and parcel of life on a Middle Georgia dairy farm during the 1950s and early 1960s, the “period of significance” (that is preservation-speak for the time period we are focused on interpreting here). The frayed fabric of the farm is complex and I (a city girl!) am only beginning to wrap my brain around the functional layout of the farm, the realities of twice a day milking, and the ghost-like meaning behind the vestigial fence rows, abandoned equipment, and the various gates and enclosures. What has been especially gratifying this week has been bringing the backyard back to life. It all started with removal of a volunteer water oak. This tree must have been 40 feet tall and its branches were overhanging the house and providing access by all sorts of creatures to the warmth of the upstairs rooms. The root system was threatening the structure of the Main House and the rough and tangled roots were tearing up the paved carport/patio and were not for the faint of heart to traverse on the way to the back door. Now that the tree is gone and the healing process has begun, we can start to envision the backyard as it was. We have some indication in historical photographs showing the backyard with trimmed shrubs, edged beds and of course peacocks fanning their tails. In her essay “The King of the Birds”, Flannery offers a vivid evocation of backyard life, with of course the spectacle of the peacocks doing their spring thing, but she also names specific roses (Lady Bankshire and Herbert Hoover) and even fig trees that were part of the gardens here. That is helpful information as we work to restore and reinvigorate the gardens that Flannery's mother had to go to great pains to protect from the ravages of the free-range peafowl. Now living in an aviary, the peafowl are no longer a threat and we can begin to get the gardens in shape and can enjoy some of the heirloom roses and fruits and vegetables that were once grown here. Flannery's essay also reflects long term and keen observation of the peafowl, an activity that surely took place largely outdoors. Outdoors? Today that is somewhat anathema to 21st century lifestyles that take place largely indoors and involve screens of all sizes (big to little: smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and televisions). Being outdoors is indeed a life way and is something we are preserving here. Yesterday we placed in the yard two period garden chairs and a table (given to us by a generous donor right out of her backyard!). Today, a group made immediate use by ‘visiting’. Beautiful!

- Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director
The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation

Friday, March 7, 2014

Think globally, act locally

"When in as you done in Milledgeville"
-Flannery O'Connor

Andalusia's pull extends across the globe. Flannery O'Connor's books have been translated into many languages, and  pilgrims come from far and wide to visit the place that inspired her art. Our visitor log includes entries from Rome and Paris, the U.K. and Canada, Iraq and Japan.  These folks are joined by visitors from all over the United States. Each visitor that comes to Andalusia invariably contributes in varying degrees to the local economy. We of course appreciate the income from purchases in the Andalusia Store; these funds help to support our preservation and conservation efforts. Visitors also spend money on food and drink, gas and lodging in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. All this activity has synergy with Milledgeville's own august history and the destination tourism marketed by the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The local CVB is funded by hotel/motel tax dollars and those funds came home to roost last week when area attractions were surprised by the CVB with a cash award and Andalusia received $5000. Wow! That is big money for an organization whose charge is to care for and to provide access to over half a dozen historic structures and close to 544 acres of open space. Well, I can tell you the money is already being well spent, and spent locally.  These surprise funds from the CVB are being used to hire local contractors to clear and restore the Cow Barn's dirt floor to allow for a safe environment for visitors as we work towards opening the barn to the public by May. We are also using some of the surprise gift to overhaul our website. While it is rich in content and a very useful source of information, the graphics and navigation are dated, and we are using a new platform that will be easier to update. Again, local talent is being tapped, and we hope to roll out our new site April Fool's Day, in a nod to Flannery's famous sense of humor. Since our website extends Andalusia's access to our global audience we are excited by the potential for the new site, along with our growing social media presence,  to reach and engage even more Flannery fans world-wide. Local funds for global reach? I like it! 

 - Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director, The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation