Museum director focuses on community engagement

Macy Holloway

The 26 foot long Mosasaur hanging in the Georgia Southern University Museum has been dead for 78 million years. Dr. Brent Tharp has only been director of the museum since the summer of 2000.

The Georgia Southern University Museum has been dedicated to offering learning opportunities to the GSU Campus and the Statesboro community since 1980. Brent Tharp, Ph.D, the Museum’s current director, shares that same dedication.

Tharp has been in the museum business for more than 20 years. He got his start in Williamsburg, Virginia as the curator for the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation at the Yorktown Battlefield. He later directed a museum in North Carolina before arriving at his current position at GSU.

Here at GSU, Tharp is responsible for overseeing all the operations, collections and programming that the museum offers.

“It’s a small staff that does a lot, we have about 25,000 visitors a year, including school kids, faculty members and our own students here at the university,” said Tharp.

The museum is non-profit; it receives funding from the state, but state funding can only go so far. Tharp and the rest of the museum staff are responsible for raising enough money to keep the museum and its services open to the the campus and the Statesboro community.

Feed the Mosasaur is one of the Museum’s most popular fundraisers.

“Each year we do a fundraiser called Feed the Mosasaur, which is a five course dinner that the chef here at GSU leads. He demonstrates how to make each course for the crowd, and after it’s done everyone gets a taste and every year it is themed. We usually have about 125 to 150 folks who attend that every year,” Tharp said.

Fundraisers like Feed the Mosasaur are done to reach out to the Statesboro community for support, but also to attract the community to the museum. One of Tharp’s main goals as museum director is to get GSU students physically in to the museum to experience the collections and events offered.

Tharp said, “One of our biggest challenges is getting our own students into the museum. We understand folks are here and busy with courses so most of our student visitors that come through have course work that they’re doing. But we’re quite anxious to encourage people to come in. I think most people are very pleasantly surprised when they come in here.”