Local

Coastal Discovery Museum celebrates a valuable Beaufort County critter: The oyster

In this photo taken in February 1912 at the Maggioni Canning Co. in Port Royal, photographer Lewis Hine noted these children went to school for a half a day. But four hours before school and three hours after, the children shucked oysters. On Saturday, the children shucked from 4 a.m. to early afternoon.
In this photo taken in February 1912 at the Maggioni Canning Co. in Port Royal, photographer Lewis Hine noted these children went to school for a half a day. But four hours before school and three hours after, the children shucked oysters. On Saturday, the children shucked from 4 a.m. to early afternoon. Library of Congress

The newest Coastal Discovery Museum exhibit dives into the rich history of oysters in the Beaufort County region.

From child labor in the early 1900s to native islanders and more recent conservation efforts, the exhibit tells the story of how oysters have been a part of Lowcountry life for generations, said Natalie Hefter, museum vice president of programs.

Copies of photos from Lewis Hines housed at the Library of Congress’ National Labor Committee collection are a highlight of the exhibit, entitled “Oysters: Past, Present, and Future.”

The photos tell the story of Polish immigrant children who traveled to Beaufort County to work in the oyster factories, Hefter said. All of the photos were taken in Bluffton and Port Royal.

Additional photographs document native islanders and their oyster boats, and the efforts of the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program to restore oyster habitat through shell recycling, reef building and water monitoring.

Visitors also can watch a video, provided by the Port Royal Sound Foundation, of local families telling the story of the oyster business through the years.

One striking artifact is a shucking table from Hudson’s Seafood House restaurant, Hefter said.

“It is definitely old school,” she said. “It is not a fancy one you might see at other places. It is plywood on the top of saw horses.”

The museum’s own staff curated the exhibit of about 40 images and artifacts, Hefter said. That happens about every 15 months, with traveling exhibits created by other organizations mounted in between.

Hefter said the response so far has been positive.

“People are really reading the labels and learning about the history,” Hefter said. “It is exciting.”

If you go

  • What: Oysters: Past, Present, and Future
  • Where: Coastal Discovery Museum Discovery House, 70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island
  • When: During gallery hours (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday) through Sept. 8
  • For more information: Call 843-689-6767 or visit coastaldiscovery.org
  Comments