Columbus State Establishes Research Room 'In Pursuit of Truth'

CSU is about to become a key player in the campaign for historical accuracy.

Contributions from members and friends of the Institute for the Study of American Cultures (ISAC) are leading to a new research room in the Simon Schwob Memorial Library archives dedicated to an ongoing academic debate over whether Christopher Columbus was indeed the first explorer to set foot in the 'new world.'

A local historian and former director of the Columbus Museum for Arts, Joseph B. Mahan, Ph.D., founded the institute in 1983 to support scholars interested in the 'pursuit of truth' concerning the existence of European culture in ancient America. Members of ISAC contend world cultures and civilizations had 'transoceanic' contact and influenced each other for many years as a result of extraordinary feats of exploration and maritime trading - long before Columbus ushered in a new era.

With the new research room being developed, CSU will have a nationally significant collection of materials on pre-Columbian scholarship. 'This is a way to perpetuate these materials,' said ISAC President Morton Harris. 'At the same time, it should help the university greatly, since it will be one of a few places in North America to have materials in this subject area.'

ISAC will have its 30th annual conference October 24-26 in Columbus. Harris and fellow ISAC members, and CSU officials will hold a special ceremony at Columbus State University's Simon Schwob Memorial Library Friday to officially dedicate the new research room in Mahan's name.

Dean of Libraries Callie McGinnis said the Joseph B. Mahan, Jr./ISAC Research Room will be within the library's archives. 'Thanks to the ISAC donation we will be able to preserve these materials and make them readily accessible to researchers.'

'The gift also has allowed us to expand our entire facility while paying tribute to Joe Mahan, who was instrumental in the establishment of our archives,' she said.

The collection will be an asset to many disciplines in addition to history, said McGinnis. 'The CSU Libraries collect materials representing a wide array of diverse viewpoints. The collection will benefit researchers in a wide variety of fields from astronomy and archaeology to music and art.'

CSU's archives have housed numerous books, artifacts, maps and other historical material gathered by Mahan and other scholars of his kind for several years. But since Mahan's death in 1998, ISAC has wanted to enhance the collection. 'There needed to be more formality,' said Harris, 'and this is a great way to honor Joe.'

Mahan's work is considered instrumental in preserving and interpreting the region's history. His lifetime accomplishments include enhancing the Columbus Museum's Indian artifact section and working to increase local interest in the area's Indian heritage; locating and raising the Confederate gunboat Chattahoochee; restoring Lumpkin's attractive Bedenfield Inn; and helping to establish and charter the 1850s historic town of Westville Village. He also played a significant role in creating and gathering materials for the CSU Archives in the 1970s.

He has been credited with initiating a new industry coined 'heritage tourism,' and since his death, friends and colleagues lovingly refer to Mahan as 'the spirit of history.'


On Research Room: Callie McGinnis, 568-2680; E-mail: