Some legislators say a museum previously agreed as the permanent home for the last Confederate battle flag to fly on Statehouse grounds may be too secluded to justify an estimated $3.6 million price tag.
A House budget panel was reluctant this week to set aside $3 million for the Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum to expand its exhibit space in addition to $550,000 for the flag display itself.
The museum’s commission last month backed a plan that would place the flag in a floating glass case, surrounded by panels with tiny LED screens. The panels could display scrolling names of the more than 22,000 South Carolinians killed in the Civil War. Museum director Allen Roberson said other Civil War artifacts that are part of the museum’s collections could be kept in the room.
But some key legislators involved in the House budget process do not think the Confederate Relic Room (which, despite its name, focuses on South Carolina’s entire military history) receives enough visitors to justify such an expansion.
“They’re bringing in $120,000 of revenue per year in admissions,” State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, told South Carolina Radio Network. “This is not a prudent financial move for the state of South Carolina.”
Limehouse, who chairs the House panel that oversees the museum’s budget, is floating that the flag or museum move elsewhere. He said that could possibly include moving its Civil War artifacts in the North Charleston facility that houses the former Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.
Such a move is only Limehouse’s personal idea at this point. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has made it clear he does not want the flag housed in a museum just five miles from Mother Emanuel AME Church, where the murder of nine black parishioners by a self-proclaimed white supremacist in June led lawmakers to remove the flag.
“I certainly have no intentions of supporting this legislation or the idea of bringing the Confederate museum to North Charleston,” Summey said in a statement.
State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, said part of the problem is the Relic Room’s current location at the back of a restored textile mill that also houses the much more visited South Carolina State Museum. Despite their close proximity and each being owned by the state, the two museums are considered separate entities.
The July 2015 resolution that removed the Confederate flag required that it be turned over to the Confederate Relic Room for “appropriate display.” But Huggins said “not very many members” even knew where museum was.
“That being the case, if our own members of the General Assembly don’t really know where it is, how does the general public know where it is?” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Relic Room bills itself as South Carolina’s oldest state-owned museum and was once housed in the Statehouse itself. It later relocated to the University of South Carolina campus, but moved again to its larger current home in 2002.