Letís start with the South Carolina State Museum's most prominent artifact, the building, itself. Opened in 1988, the museum is housed in the 1897 Columbia Mill textile building. Inside, you'll discover art, cultural & natural history, science & technology and many other exhibits and programs.
A favorite of the young crowd is the Stringer Discovery Center, a hands-on gallery especially designed so children ages 6 and younger can explore a tree house, cross a bridge, do floor puzzles, read a book and learn more about South Carolina all in one space. It will keep them occupied and having fun for quite a while. I recommend saving it for later in the visit, though, in case the young ones start getting restless in the rest of the museum. Who knows, they may discover they enjoy the other exhibits.
One thing which makes South Carolina so special is its diverse landscapes and ecosystems. From the mountains to the sea and everything in between, you'll find many types of environments and life. At the Museum, discover life in the past as well as habitats for many creatures. (Hint: Be sure to look for the Great White Shark.)
The history of life in the region is exciting as well. Travel through time from 14,000 years ago through colonization and the revolution. Visit the antebellum south as it moves through the civil war and 20th century into the 21st century. Learn the history of technology in South Carolina. (Hint: Discover the first automobile mass produced in the state and look for displays on African-American history.)
South Carolina has always been a center of culture and art in the United States, especially for the original colonies. It's not surprising to see such fantastic exhibits on those subjects. While there are specific art exhibits, you will discover many fine pieces spread throughout the museum and outside on the museum grounds.
Inside, the anchor of the fine, folk, and decorative arts gallery on the 4th floor is the beautiful Philip Simmons Gate. The wrought iron work of the late Charleston artist graces some of the most beautiful (and expensive) homes in the south. It is fitting that he be honored by such a prominent display.
Besides the gate, you'll find portraits of key historical figures and contemporary paintings of important historical events. The museum also houses incredible pieces of art in many different mediums as well as changing and traveling displays. (Hint: Be sure to look for the Blue Sky's Mural.)
Some favorite exhibits are those displaying the contributions of South Carolina to science, technology and space. Some of these include tributes to Nobel Prize winners Doctors Charles Townes, Joseph Goldstein, and Kary Mullis as well as astronauts Charles Dukes and Dr. Ron McNair. This area includes many fun hands-on exhibits. (Hint: Be sure to check out Duke's Apollo 16 space suit and the Fitz telescope built in 1845 for Erskine College.)
The South Carolina State Museum is located at 301 Gervais Street, beside the historic Gervais St. Bridge and just a few blocks west of the State Capitol in downtown Columbia. It is open Tuesday - Saturday 10AM - 5 PM and Sundays from 1 - 5PM all year. From May 31 through September 6, it is also open from 10AM - 5 PM on Mondays. It is closed New Yearís Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Prices are subject to change, so check the website. Group and special rates are available.
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Telephone: (803) 898-4921