Vanessa Dameron has spent decades building a ‘Gone with the Wind’ collection that would have made Margaret Mitchell, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh proud, and it all started with a part-time job at the University of Georgia library.
Walking through the door is like taking a step back in time. A haunting musical score plays softly in the background, its melody beckoning from an old yet familiar place. Cursory glances around the room confirm the destination. This is Tara, or at least closer than I have been in many years to that fictional plantation made famous in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Gone with the Wind” and epic film of the same name.
If the setting were a bit larger, perhaps, Vanessa Dameron might well be called the curator of a museum. As it is, she is delighted to guide visitors through her GWTW “gallery”—a re-purposed garage set behind her house on Dearing Street, not far from The Square. Hundreds of GWTW mementos and artifacts, collected by Dameron over the last 45 years, line carefully arranged shelves and bookcases and hang securely from each of the room’s four walls. Even the bathroom is aptly decorated.
“There’s a little bit of everything here,” Dameron said of the extensive display. Most of the items are related in some way to the “Gone with the Wind” book, movie or its actors. There are commemorative plate collections, postage stamps and Christmas ornaments, collectible dolls and figurines, music boxes, paintings, autographed programs and letters and tons of books, to name just a few.
Dameron, a retired respiratory therapist, is a treasure trove of interesting and often little-known facts related to “Gone with the Wind” and serves as a helpful guide through the maze of curios. She attributes her extensive knowledge of the subject to many years of collecting and learning. Special events such as movie re-premieres, exhibits, destinations like The Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro or the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, and, of course, the books and artifacts that make up the gallery have all enriched Dameron’s understanding of and love for GWTW.
“It’s really hard to pick one thing, but the Scarlett doll my mom gave me as my first piece will alwaysbe special.”Vanessa Dameron
When Dameron received a Madame Alexander Scarlett doll as a gift from her mom as a 10-year-old, she was already looking like the collector she would become more than 50 years later.
“I always treasured [the doll] and took really good care of her,” she said, “keeping her in the original box and just taking her out every so often to look at.”
Though Dameron remembers going to see the movie a couple of times with her family as a child, it was not until she was a University of Georgia student that her passion for GWTW awakened. A part-time job at the UGA library led to her seeing an exhibit in the Rare Books section featuring GWTW author Margaret Mitchell, as well as a script from the movie.
“Somehow, seeing that [exhibit] just kind of sparked how much I really did love the movie,” she said. “That’s when the collecting bug bit me.”
Since then, Dameron has found her treasures in a variety of places. “Before computers, my mom and I would just go to antique places and flea markets,” she said. Dameron has also procured new collectibles as they have been released at various movie anniversary events. In addition, she now utilizes eBay in her search for the old and unique. These days, with a large collection and limited space, she is more selective. “I want to add things that reflect how I feel about [GWTW] and that I really like,” she said.
Sometimes, Dameron finds the collectible. Sometimes, it finds her. “I have my family and friends to thank for helping to add large chunks to my collection,” she said. The donations have come in many forms: books, newspaper clippings, commemorative plates, even a brick and ashes that were recovered from Margaret Mitchell’s house after it burned. Other items have been handmade by the donors themselves, including “Gone with the Wind”-themed paintings, curtains and throw pillows. Taking her entire collection into account, Dameron is hard-pressed to choose a favorite.
“It’s really hard to pick one thing,” she said, “but the Scarlett doll my mom gave me as my first piece will always be special.”
An original movie program from the GWTW World Premiere, which was held in Atlanta in 1939, along with newspaper clippings covering the event—given by her godmother, who was present at the premier parade—are close runners-up. Attending the 50th Anniversary “re-premiere” and related special events, held in Atlanta in 1989, was an exciting highlight for Dameron, as well as some family members. “My mom, sister, godmother and I also got to meet some of the stars from the movie that were still alive,” she said.
Today, there are no surviving, credited cast members from “Gone with the Wind.” There is the book and the movie, along with artifacts and mementos like those found in Dameron’s gallery that continue to enliven the memory of both. Dameron explained the passion fueling her unusual hobby. “I do really enjoy collecting it all,” she said, “and I like to share it with people who have a love for GWTW.” Dameron acknowledged the tragedy of slavery depicted in the story and its flawed characters but finds redemption in the “determined spirit” of its protagonist. “It’s about Scarlett’s will to survive through a war and through poverty and how she came out on the other side,” she said. It is a theme that continues to resonate with readers and viewers nearly a century after Margaret Mitchell typed out the last word of her 1,000-plus-page Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
For information on or to schedule a free-admission visit to the “Gone with the Wind” gallery, contact Vanessa Dameron via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.