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The Georgetown County Museum, located in the heart of downtown close to the Rice Museum, the waterfront, and a collection of local marinas, is a must-stop destination for any history buff who wants an inside look into this town's unique and undeniably lengthy historic legacy.
Spanning all eras of Georgetown life, from the original Native American residents to the relatively modern Georgetown Steel Mill, this completely engaging collection of antiques and relics paints an intricate portrait of all aspects of coastal South Carolina life - past, present and future.
The museum began as a pet project of the Georgetown Historical Society, a prominent local institution since 1955. After several decades of amassing county treasures, the historical society determined that a space was needed to share these relics and representations of nearly 300 years of history with the general public. The first Georgetown County Museum opened in 2005, but quickly outgrew its space as more donations poured in, and more artifacts were uncovered. In early 2014, the museum moved to its new, and likely permanent locale, on 120 Broad Street, adjacent to the charming brick streets and gorgeous waterfront views that have made this section of town legendary.
Its new brick building locale is three times the size as the former museum, allowing more treasures and displays to fill the galleries and exhibit areas. The museum also features classrooms for school trips and youth-oriented programs, as well as seasonal lectures or hands-on activities for patrons of all interests.
Divided into two stories, the first floor is dedicated to two revolving galleries, with seasonally changing exhibits, the main welcome center, and the gift shop, while the top floor, tentatively named "History, Heroes and Treasure" by museum organizers, is a massive collection of all things Georgetown, that have effectively been donated to the Historical Society over the last 60 years.
Despite the seemingly overwhelming range of exhibits, the museum is well-organized into a variety of collections that focus on a particular period or aspect of Georgetown's history.
The Plantation Life and Slavery Collections are two opposite yet illuminating components that reflect, in opulent or grave detail, both sides of the plantation lifestyle that was prevalent in and around the Georgetown district. The Military Collection is a proud tribute to Georgetown's enthusiastic role in virtually every military conflict or action in American History, while the Native American collection pays quiet homage to the region's original inhabitants, including the Waccamaw, Winyah, PeeDee, Santee and Sampit Indians who thrived in the beaches, the low laying flatlands, and the woods. Arrowheads, pottery shards, and artifacts tell pieces of their long history as true Georgetown Natives.
Water and weather lovers will be fascinated with the SS City of Georgetown collection, which traces the city's rough, and often landscape-changing encounters with coastal storms, all the way from the 1800s to devastating Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Nearby, the Industry Collection chronicles how the city thrived, despite these weather-related setbacks, with products, advertisements, and ledgers that date back all the way to the 1730s when ship builders first took notice of the region.
The Entertainment and Famous Americans of Georgetown collections chronicle the highlights of the Georgetown scene, from local bands and baseball teams to brushes with famous leaders including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and the "swamp fox" himself, General Francis Marion. The 20th Century collection brings the town's recent Georgetown'sto life with phonographs, transistor radios, and goodies from Mr. Alwyn Goldstein's department store, and the story of one such notable local leader from the era, Dr. Frances Doyle, (the first woman doctor in the region), is proudly preserved with the Dr. Doyle Collection.
Sportsmen and women will love browsing through the Hunting and Sport Fishing collections, both containing artifacts of the region's favorite outdoor activities from the past century, while the study archives provide a quiet and expansive area to review the literature, photographs, and written relics from all of these bygone eras.
Frequent visitors can look forward to new additions on a regular basis, as they are discovered and donated, or as they are loaned to the museum from other historical institutions or South Carolina collectors. Recent highlights include a perfectly preserved alkaline pottery jug crafted and signed by "Dave the Slave" with an inscribed date of March 1852, in addition to an expansive personal collection of artworks and artifacts from Lowcountry resident Selden "Bud" Hill, an award-winning novelist, biographer and historian.
After a long self-guided tour, visitors are encouraged to stop by the museum's gift shop, The Rice Trunk, which features a bevy of local books, apparel, postcards, and other Georgetown treasures to take back home and admire for years to come. The gift shop and the museum itself are both open year round, from Tuesday until Friday, 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
In addition to being home to a wealth of local treasures, the museum is also often the launching grounds for intricate historical tours, which wind through the downtown Georgetown streets, and pause along some of the city's longest-standing or most noteworthy homes and structures.
The museum is also the home base for a number of home grown festivals, including the Winyah Bay Heritage festival, held annually in late February or early March, as well as special events including local book signings, holiday gift shop sales, or special guest lectures. The museum's website, is a good sources for upcoming special events, festivals, education programs, and other local happenings sponsored by both the museum and the Georgetown Historical Society. Donations are always appreciated, and volunteers are an equally sought-after commodity, and interested parties can contact the museum online about volunteering opportunities.
The Georgetown County Museum breathes new life into an already vivid path, and honors virtually all aspects of Lowcountry South Carolina history. With relics of the region's native inhabitants that date back thousands of years, to the to newer 20th century collections that bring the good old days into focus, everyone is sure to find a favorite little exhibit or gallery within the extensive local Historical Society's collection. A worthy stop for anyone strolling along downtown, and a must for history buffs who are new to the area, the Georgetown County Museum continues to charm its visitors in its new, and perfectly appropriate, locale in the heart of the city.