The Tellus Science Museum building winks through a cluster of tall trees along I-75 near Exit 293. It hits the eye like the prow of a proud ship. The building hints at the treasures displayed within it, and other treasures in Cartersville, a city less than an hour’s drive north of Atlanta that has collected a cluster of unusual museums.
“Cartersville is home to … some of the Atlanta area’s most interesting museums,” said Meredith Dollevoet, sales and marketing manager at the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Things really started, Dollevoet said, when a group of local business owners got together and decided they needed a place to show artworks they had gathered to the public. “The Booth Museum was opened in 2003 as a way to share their art collections with the community and to provide educational opportunities,” she said.
That was just the start. The group formed the non-profit Georgia Museums, Inc., and in 2009, opened the Tellus Science Museum as an expansion of a building then known as the Weinman Mineral Museum. Other museums followed, with Georgia Museums now responsible for the Bartow History Museum and a related entity that operates the Grand Theatre in downtown Cartersville.
The latest addition to the group’s collection, the Savoy Automobile Museum, opened in December 2021. “It displays not only some of the benefactors’ private collection, but also an array of automobiles in rotating temporary exhibitions that showcase the history and diversity of the automobile,” Dollevoet said.
The gathering of museums draws tourists and attention to the city. In fact, Smithsonian Magazine included Cartersville as one of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2022.
“In a nutshell, Cartersville became Georgia’s Museum City because a group of generous businessmen wanted to give back to the community through their love and appreciation of art, history, science, education, and now, cars,” Dollevoet said.
Booth Western Art Museum
The Booth Museum, named for Sam Booth, a friend and mentor to the founders, boasts a permanent collection of the art of the American west, Civil War art and presidential portraits and letters, allowing visitors to “See America’s Story” in paintings, sculpture, photography and artifacts. The Booth also features Sagebrush Ranch, a hands-on experience and interactive children’s gallery.
“The museum has become an important attraction since opening in Cartersville, being the world’s largest permanent exhibition space for Western art, and it is the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast,” said Grace Adams, director of marketing at Booth Western Art Museum.
With 120,000 square feet of space, the Booth is a great size to see in a day, but offers more than enough to make additional trips worthwhile, Adams said. “Temporary exhibits are changed every three to four months in four galleries, resulting in 12 to 15 exhibitions per year, the most in any Georgia art museum,” she said.
More than 800,000 people have visited the Booth Museum since it opened. “In 2019, Booth achieved its highest level of attendance with over 68,000 visitors,” Adams reported. The museum currently has about 1,600 members.
As it’s grown in popularity, the Booth Museum has also received many awards, “including being named Best Art Museum by USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice award program in 2020, 2021 and 2022,” Adams pointed out. The process involves a panel of experts partnered with editors at 10Best to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 were determined by popular vote.
Booth Western Art Museum, 501 Museum Dr., Cartersville, Ga. 30120, 770-387-1300, boothmuseum.org
Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Admission is $13 for adults; $11 for seniors, 65+; $10 for students; and free for children 12 and under.
Tellus Science Museum
The Tellus Science Museum is an expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum, according to Shelly Redd, Director of Marketing at the Tellus Science Museum.
“The Weinman Museum was one of the few options teachers had for geology field trips for students,” she said. “However, the 9,000-square-foot museum could not accommodate the high demand for educational activities. Eventually the museum was turning away more students than they were able to serve and that’s when the decision was made to expand the museum and the services we offer.”
It has grown to 120,000 square feet with four permanent galleries: The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard. Some of the most popular exhibits are an 80-foot-long Brontosaurus and a replica 1903 Wright flyer.
Tellus also houses three special exhibit galleries, a fossil dig, and gem-panning interactive exhibit, as well as a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory that features a state-of-the-art 20-inch telescope.
“The museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate shortly after opening in January 2009,” Redd added. Affiliation with the Smithsonian benefits museums with support in development, expertise, fundraising and promotion. “Studies in the community have shown that many visitors to the area came primarily to visit Tellus,” she said, noting that the average annual attendance at Tellus, excluding 2020 and 2021, is just over 195,000. “To date, we’ve hosted 2,456,000-plus guests.”
Tellus Science Museum, 100 Tellus Dr., Cartersville, Ga. 30120. 770-606-5700, tellusmuseum.org
Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas
Admission is $17 for adults; $15 for seniors, 65+; $13 for kids aged 3-17; and free for kids 2 and under.
Savoy Automobile Museum
Inside the 65,000-square-foot Savoy Automobile Museum, visitors are invited to roam a Great Hall and four exhibition galleries that showcase automobiles of different makes, models, and eras. There is also a state-of-the-art theatre with stadium seating for nearly 300 guests that includes an ultra hi-definition video panel wall, measuring 17 feet by 33 feet, and a turntable stage for rotating vehicles. The museum’s permanent collection rotates periodically; it includes a 1932 Rolls Royce 20/25, 1953 Kaiser Dragon and 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.
The museum’s name seemed pre-determined. “When developing the land, a 1954 Plymouth Savoy car with a tree growing out of it was unearthed. As if by fate, it was the only vehicle uncovered,” Dollevoet said. “This famous Savoy car is on permanent display outside the museum in all its rusted glory.”
The Savoy has a 37-acre campus, and there are plans to build an outdoor pavilion for use with events on the showgrounds. Current and upcoming exhibitions include: “Pirelli: The Story of a Company,” through Sept. 4, with a collection of cars that don Pirelli tires, including Formula One, Ferrari and Lamborghini; “FrontRunners,” through Oct. 2, featuring record-breaking Indy roadsters from the 1950s and 1960s; and “Big Blocks,” Aug. 2-Dec. 4, showcasing “the big and bold from an iconic era in American automotive history.”
In addition to exhibitions, the Savoy hosts events. On August 13 at 2 p.m., the 1968 Steve McQueen film “Bullitt” will be shown at the Savoy’s theatre. “Ford v Ferrari,” a 2019 movie starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, is scheduled for Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
Though it’s only been open since last December, the Savoy Automobile Museum has been getting a lot of interest. It has already welcomed more than 70,000 visitors and has grown its membership to over 2,500.
Savoy Automobile Museum, 3 Savoy Lane, Cartersville, Ga. 30120, 770-416-1500, savoymuseum.org
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults; $5 for kids 3-12; and free for kids 2 and under, as well as active military (with ID).
But Wait, There’s More!
Other noteworthy places to visit in Cartersville and Bartow County:
Bartow History Museum, the fourth museum managed by Georgia Museums, Inc., illustrates the past and present of Bartow County with exhibits that span 200 years, starting with life in the early 1800s when the area was inhabited by Cherokee. The museum also has a membership program, starting at $30 a year, as well as volunteer opportunities.
4 Church St., Cartersville, Ga. 30120, 770-387-2774, bartowhistorymuseum.org
Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., admission is $7 for adults; $6 for students and seniors, 65+; and free for kids 5 and under, as well as active military.
Old Car City Car Museum bills itself as “the world’s largest known classic car junkyard.” Hundreds of cars rest on 34 acres, with deep South vegetation winding around them. “This is a favorite of mine, because it is so unique and eclectic, plus Dean Lewis, the owner, is a great storyteller,” Dollevoet said. “Outside the main building, there is a lot of walking, so I would just recommend this for agile seniors.”
3098 Hwy. 411 NE, White, Ga. 30184, 770-382-6141, oldcarcityusa.com
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is cash only. It’s $30 for all ages for anyone who takes photos. Just to look (no camera), admission is $20 for ages 13 and up; $10 for kids 7-12; and free for kids 6 and under.
The Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is 54 acres of protected land that was the home to several thousand Native Americans from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Visitors can visit the museum to see artifacts to learn about life for the Native Americans of the Mississippian Culture, as well as follow a nature trail to view the mounds and other sites.
813 Indian Mounds Rd., Cartersville, Ga. 30120, 770-387-3747 gastateparks.org/EtowahIndianMounds
Open 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; mounds area closes at 4:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors, 62+; $4 for ages 6-17; and $2 for kids under 6.
Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center is a Black cultural museum that features historical aspects of Black culture in Bartow County. It is in the restored Rosenwald School that was built in 1923 as the first school for Black children. This is also a stop on the African American Trail.
2361 Joe Frank Harris Pkwy., Cassville, Ga. 20123, 770-382-3392, NobleHillWheeler.org, Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Call to confirm hours before visiting. Free.
Rose Lawn Museum, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the restored Victorian Mansion that was once the home of the nationally renowned evangelist Sam Jones.
224 Cherokee Ave., Cartersville Ga. 30120,770-387-5162, RoseLawnMuseum.com
Tours Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-5 p.m.; Friday, by appointment only. Admission is cash only, $7 for adults; and $5 for students, 12 and under.
Adairsville Depot History Museum shares local history and details Adairsville’s role in the Civil War’s Great Locomotive chase.
101 Public Square, Adairsville, Ga. 30103, 770-773-3451 x122, adairsvillega.net
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free.
Kingston Women’s History Museum portrays life in Kingston following the Civil War.
13 E. Main St., Kingston, Ga. 30145
Contact Nettie Holt at 770-386-0146 or Phyllis Casey at 770-336-5637.
Open Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.; other times by appointment. Free.
The Coca-Cola sign on the east wall of Young Brothers Pharmacy in downtown Cartersville dates to 1894 and has been authenticated as the first outdoor painted wall advertisement for Coca-Cola. The sign received the 1990 Georgia Trust Award for Preservation. Twenty-five layers of paint were removed during the restoration to reveal the original sign.
2 W Main St., Cartersville, Ga. 30120, 770-382-4010
Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Sunday 1:30-3 p.m.