Beaufort History Museum takes an important step

info@islandpacket.comDecember 26, 2013 

Libby Holloway, left, and Anna Schafer, right, both Beaufort History Museum board members, share a laugh while hanging a Civil War era gun on Thursday afternoon while setting up the new exhibit on the First South Carolina Colored Troops in the Beaufort History Museum at City Hall in Beaufort. The exhibit will open on Sept. 5 and will run through December. To see a video about the exhibit go to islandpacket.com/local-news-videos.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

The Arsenal is a natural location for the Beaufort History Museum.

The historic building is in the heart of the tourism district and houses the city's official visitor center.

A recent agreement between the all-volunteer museum and the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce will enable the museum to move from City Hall to the second floor of The Arsenal building at the corner of Craven and Carteret streets.

It is another in a series of positive steps for the museum, now crawling back to life after almost disappearing.

In 2010, the city came to grips with the fact that a museum collection that began in 1939 was in shambles. For the previous eight years, it sat in The Arsenal in a room with no temperature, humidity or vermin controls, and no proper shelving, curtains or anything else that blocked light from damaging the items.

Furthermore, records of what was currently or formerly in the collection were a mess. Items that should have been there, were not there. Items of value had deteriorated.

Efforts by the city and subsequently the Historic Beaufort Foundation to manage and care for the museum collection had failed.

To the credit of the city and a small group of volunteers, the museum is now headed in the right direction.

The collection has been inventoried, documented and stored in a good place at City Hall. And for the past year, the museum has put together a permanent display and organized special exhibits on such important local topics as the first black army regiment being formed in Beaufort County during the Civil War, and the history of the Hunting Island State Park.

Now the museum will need broad, grassroots support and a clear vision and mission to reach history-minded tourists, inform newcomers and be a source of pride for all residents.

It should coordinate with other entities -- including the Parris Island Museum, Penn Center and its York W. Bailey Museum, the Historic Beaufort Foundation and its John Mark Verdier House Museum, the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library, the Beaufort County and Port Royal historical societies, the University of South Carolina Beaufort, the Technical College of the Lowcountry and its Mather School legacy -- to best tell Beaufort's amazing stories.

Perhaps the most important lesson from the past two decades is that good intentions are not good enough. The museum needs constant oversight, professional guidance, community support, and money.

The city has learned that it should not be in the museum business, though it can support the cause.

Museum volunteers have learned that it is time-consuming, and that the museum must crawl before it walks, and walk before it runs. An important step is moving back to The Arsenal.

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