Beaufort News

Beaufort museum committee strives to get exhibits up by year's end

After sifting through Beaufort's collection of artifacts once housed at The Arsenal, members of the Beaufort History Museum committee believe they can get some worthy pieces on display by the end of the year, possibly at City Hall.

The all-volunteer committee began meeting in February, months after a city-commissioned report found that many pieces in the collection had deteriorated beyond repair after years of neglect. Others, the report said, have no relevance to Beaufort.

The committee got City Council approval to examine the collection, which had been boxed up and moved to the city's municipal complex last year. Fifty-one of 260 boxes have been put aside because their contents are either damaged or contain items not relevant to Beaufort history, committee chairwoman Katherine Lang said.

"Many things in the collection are in bad shape," Lang said. "But for every piece that's in terrible shape, there are probably two more that are in fine shape."

Lang highlighted some of the noteworthy items for City Council members in a recent report:

  • A porcelain jug embossed with images of animals hanging after a hunt. Although no documentation exists, Lang said the jug has been attributed to Thomas Heyward Jr., a Lowcountry figure and signer of the Declaration of Independence who lived from 1746 to 1809.
  • A Victorian-era blue velvet mourning dress embroidered with human hair that can be exhibited along with other mourning clothes and a collection of funerary jewelry, also made of human hair, which was fashionable in the Victorian era, Lang said.
  • Irons for pressing laundry from the 1800s that sat on a stove at the Mather School. The stove also is a part of the collection.
  • Military items, including a colonial powder horn, a World War I gas mask, uniforms and other artifacts that are stored at the Confederate Relic Room in Columbia and at the Parris Island Museum.
  • Pharmacy bottles and equipment from the former Luther's Pharmacy on Bay Street.
  • The committee now plans to group all the artifacts and will call in museum historians and archeologists to help assess the entire collection, Lang said.

    Helping the committee evaluate the collection's worth, both historic and monetary, will be Rodger Stroup, chairman of the board of the S.C. Department of Archives and History; Charles Cobb of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology; and George Stubbs of the Hilton Head Island chapter of the Archeology Society of S.C.

    Historians Larry Rowland and Steve Wise, curator of the Parris Island Museum, will serve as professional advisers, Lang said.

    Lang and committee member Mary Lou Brewton recently spoke with City Council members about temporary displays in City Hall -- and possibly other locations throughout the city -- while the committee continues raising money for a permanent location.

    The committee has incorporated in South Carolina as a nonprofit organization and is applying for 501(c)3 status.

    "Money is our concern," Lang told City Council members. "I'm not sure there's been the combination of will and manpower to do this in the past."

    Mayor Billy Keyserling told the group it has to "crawl before you walk."

    "If people like the collection, they're going to give money," Keyserling said.

    Follow staff writer Juliann Vachon at

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