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Dorchester volunteers recognized
State museum group sees value in academy
GAMG award
Bill Austin and Deborah Robinson accept their volunteer of the year awards from GAMG President Dr. Brent Tharp on Jan. 22. - photo by Photo provided.
Bill Austin and Deborah Robinson’s devotion to preserving one of Liberty County’s most historic sites has been recognized by the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries. Austin and Robinson were named the 2010 volunteers of the year for their work with Dorchester Academy in Midway.
“I think it was a great surprise that we were recognized, and also to learn that Dorchester is appreciated across the state level,” Austin said.
The award was presented by GAMG President Dr. Brent Tharp on Jan. 22 at the group’s annual meeting.
To further expand their reach and the importance of preserving the academy, Austin and Robinson participate regularly in the “Building Capacity of African American Museums” project, a collaboration of seven area museums. The project is based at Savannah State University and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C.
Dorchester Academy was one of the first schools built for freed slaves in Georgia after the Civil War.
Austin, the mayor of Riceboro, serves as president of the Dorchester Improvement Association. He developed an annual fundraiser to support improvements and helped guide the group’s campaign for national and state recognition for the academy as a historically significant property.
“When you’re working, you don’t think about getting recognition, you’re just doing something you love,” he said. “It’s gratifying to know people appreciate what you do.”
Robinson has been the volunteer director of the Dorchester Academy Museum since 2004. As director, she conducts tours, develops outreach programs for area schools and strengthens the museum’s exhibits and programs.
“We were very humbled to receive the award. It put Dorchester in the light to help us be recognized and be known throughout the state,” Robinson said. “We just say ‘to God be the glory.’”
Last year, the two helped rally community support for the nomination of Dorchester Academy to the 2009 list of the 11 most endangered historic places, and Robinson added that the improvement association continues to work toward more national recognition.

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