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Spots, Sights and Sounds

South Carolina State Museum in Columbia filled with local, regional history

South Carolina State Museum in Columbia filled with local, regional history

by Christian Michael

April 07, 2019

Nestled along the river running through the state capitol of Columbia, South Carolina, the South Carolina State Museum offers a number of historical exhibits highlighting the simple, direct history of the men and women who settled the regions across the state, beginning in the early waves of European settlers up through the Revolution.

The state stretches from the Atlantic as far south as Savannah across the Georgia state border, up the Savannah River through Augusta, further northwest before curving east and upward along the North Carolina border all the way back to the ocean.

The museum tries to capture the history of the old state starting with its early settlement, through its time as one of the 13 original American colonies, through conflicts and war up, cultural changes, the end of slavery, the expansion of business and up through today.

With a bevy of cultural dioramas and hands-on displays, you can walk through state history, its key figures, highlighted persons and events of interest and the natural ecological beauty of the multi-faceted state.

Of note to me was an entire exhibit highlighting how radio and television had come to the state. While of American interest, there was nothing of particular impact by anyone from the state. Instead, it was merely a celebration of its impact on general culture. Having been to state museums across the country, I find this a universal trend.

It reminded me that, no matter how expansive something may be in the world, all that matters most to people is how change affects them. This in no way diminishes South Carolinians, but highlights the universal quality of our limited human focus. If something doesn't affect us, we don't care, and when it does -- no matter how grand or global an impact -- we focus only upon how our own lives are changed.

What we do with that is up to us. If humans really do focus inward, do we fight a biological tide always to turn their eyes to a world they will never truly care about, or do we encourage people to invest in the people and places around them, to grow relationships and taken ownership of their communities and their neighbors?

The world truly is as far as our hands can reach. Let us spend greater time investing in the near and the now than saving worlds which care nothing for us.

The museum also had an exhibit on the history of comic superheroes, which I think was far more about drawing the family crowd than anything else. There's also some form of planetarium attached, but I didn't visit there.

Attached to the main museum was a second highlighting the Confederate history of the region. A private museum highlighting both Confederate and modern military experience by South Carolinians, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum had its own ticket price. The place reminded me of the deep history and inner conflict the Confederacy represented in the state's history and the evolution of its people.

People love the symbols created to unify us. Unfortunately, we seem most ready to rally around such symbols when we're all lathered up to kill one another. The history is interesting but the museum is rather small.

Those seeking the area's history would do well to spend several hours wandering the museum complex. Also, it's across the parking lot from the Children's museum. Definitely a day's worth of time to spend!

Last thing of note was the first thing I saw -- a small historical sign on the way into the parking lot highlighting how World War II-era Doolittle's Raiders trained in the Columbia area in preparation for bombing Tokyo to help end the war. I never knew!




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