Museums, both small and large, are found throughout the state of South Carolina. They’re in major metropolitan areas, small towns and parks, old historical homes and large modern buildings. And no matter how they look or where you find them, these museums are as rich and diverse as are the stories they tell.
But, many small and local museums have found there to be inadequate budgets with fewer private donors -and are seeing further cuts from the state. Local community support for these small institutions has become more essential in helping them survive.
Chief Curator of Cultural History with the South Carolina State Museum, Fritz Hammer, and who is available to provide assistance to local institutions, tells of the importance of this being a grass roots community effort. “It’s essential, particularly now, – because without local community support, these small institutions -even middle-size ones are going to have a very difficult time surviving. Because there’s no government money -whether on the local level, state level.. or even the federal level to a large degree. And so you have to have the local citizens willing to support it with their moral and financial support.”
One such community that was determined to preserve some aspect of their material culture and get the stories is the Laurens community. They have an enthusiastic core of volunteers that believe their community should have a museum. One such volunteer is go-getter, past president and current Board Member of the Lauren’s museum, James Gambrell. ” Laurens County is rich in history it was founded in 1790. That’s been one of my life’s dream to have a museum there in Laurens. And it’s been talked about for 30 years,… but nobody would really would follow through and push to get it done. And once I get something in my mind to do something I want to see it done. We had a good group of people there – our directors and all. We met for 2 1/2 years before we actually found a building there . When we got the building –we got the state grants to remodel it. And now we have it completely remodeled –and we’re opened Sunday afternoon from 2-5 every Sunday. ”
Hammer said that the volunteers in Laurens started putting their museum together two or three years ago ” and to my knowledge it’s virtually all-volunteer,” he said. “That’s a noble thing. And that may be the best way to get started and to keep it going in the short run. And in the current financial times -it’s the only way to keep it going.”
Hammer says that if the museum world is going to survive, they must be dependent on those local communities and the people in them to support what they have. “My general feeling is that there’s a growing awareness of the importance of preserving the histories of the communities –at least among the core groups and in these communities. And to do that more and more of them seem to want to organize some kind of a small museum that can preserve some aspect of their material culture and get some of their stories.”
The state and local museums attract visitors from not only their home towns, but travelers from around the world.