Submitted by Autumn Johnson, Special Collections Librarian, Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University’s Special Collections recently wrapped up their Georgia Archives Month program, Bland’s Botanical Bequest: An Escape Game for Georgia Archives. This was the third and most successful game-based instructional program the unit has organized over the past few years that highlights the unique resources offered on their campus. The program builds upon the success of their 2019 Secrets, Sources, and Swamp face-to-face escape room and 2021 semi-virtual Case of the College Sweetheart mystery experience. This year, Special Collections took the escape game concept outside of the library and partnered with Georgia Southern’s Botanic Gardens. The program was held in the Botanic Gardens’ historic Bland Cottage, the 1920s homestead of Daniel and Catherine Bland, who donated the cottage and land to the University in the 1980s.
The game, similar to commercially available escape games, placed players together in a situational enviroment where they must solve a series puzzles and clues in order to solve the task at hand. Specifically, players in this game were given 45-minutes to find the Last Will & Testament of Daniel “Dan” Bland, who upon his passing in 1985, bequeathed his estate to the University.
The Bland cottage was transformed back into the 1980s and reflected the wide interests and hobbies of the Bland family. Many of the clues and puzzles encountered throughout the game were based on actual materials belonging to Dan and Catherine Bland including photographs, a hand-drawn map, herbarium press book, historic newspaper articles, and even an oral history recording. Many of these were rediscovered in Special Collections when Gardens staff began to conduct research for an upcoming exhibition!
By encountering these first-hand accounts and original materials from Special Collections, our players were able to piece together the lives of Dan and Catherine Bland, two citizen scientists who contributed greatly to Georgia Southern and the local community. They discovered the Bland family and their vision to inspire generations of lifelong learner through community gardens while learning more about the breadth and depth of resources available to them from Special Collections.
This program was the most successful to date with over 230 participants during the short-run. The program was made available through generous funding from the 2022 Georgia Archives Month Spotlight on Archives Grant. There will be an encore run of the program in Spring 2023 based on unprecedented demand from both University and greater communities!
To learn more about Georgia Archives Month see SGA’s website.