Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Barnwell County Museum

01 MuseumFront

Next time you’re at Barnwell State Park be sure to save time to visit the City of Barnwell, and especially the Barnwell County Museum.

02 MuseumSign

You’ll have to plan your visit around the Museum’s hours, since it’s now open only 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM, Tuesday through Thursday, and on Sundays. Turn right at the Park entrance and drive south. It’s just under ten miles from the Park gate, if memory serves. Also be sure to enter the Hagood Avenue address in your GPS rather than “Barnwell County Museum” to avoid being directed to it’s previous location.

Speaking of driving, leave a little early and take time to look around Barnwell itself. Barnwell has been an important South Carolina town for centuries – millennia! -- and it shows. Lots to see and learn. More on that after my next visit. But make sure to end up in the Museum parking lot by 3 o’clock. You’ll have a lot to see, and only 2.5 hours to see it.

 03 FrontRoom

Just inside the front door is the reception room. Well, more than a reception room. As you see in the photo above, this room too is full of interesting exhibits. Oh, and take a look at the hardwood floor. Beautiful materials and workmanship. The Museum’s lucky to have this house for their collections.

To your left, near the spinning wheel, have a look at the contraception pictured above. What in the world? It’s a mechanical fly chaser. I’ve never seen one quite like it. Wind up its spring and the wands turn, frightening even persistent flies away from the dining table. Museum Manager Marie Peeples kindly demonstrated it for me. I should have taken video. Maybe this fly chaser is a Barnwell original!

05 Miniatures

As you might expect in a place like Barnwell County, this museum has a huge and diverse collection. What a challenge for the curators! Limited display space; lots and lots of interesting things donated or loaned to the museum over the years.


The collection’s primary theme is geographic. Barnwell County. But Barnwell County has a long and diverse history. From Archaic American Indian to today’s fast-food/web.com culture. Further, many Barnwell County residents have a keen knowledge and appreciation of that history. They probably expect more from their County Museum than do residents of less historically conscious counties. The Museum’s collection reflects all of this. What a challenge!

09 EarlyNativeAmericanVessels

Look at these, for example. Two incredible examples of both Archaic and Woodland Period American Indian vessels. They’re behind glass, of course, but the interested visitor can get as close as she or he wishes. A rare opportunity.

08 ArrowheadCollection

And look at this interesting collection of American Indian points. Click on the photo above to get a larger view. This isn’t a haphazard bunch of arrowheads spilled out on a felt-lined tray. Each one is unique, representing an important aspect of the topic. The enclosed key provides hints to their provenance.

07 LockKnifePlumb

There’s so much to see here. Items that will take your breath away. I can’t begin to do it justice in this post. You’ll just have to visit. Maybe visit two or three times. I certainly will.

When you visit, be sure to say hello to Museum Manager Marie Peeples. She was a wonderful guide when I visited week before last. Knowledgeable and patient, even after answering hundreds of questions from this curious old recovering academic.

What a great internship opportunity this Museum would be for undergraduates interested in South Carolina history. Plenty to do, and even more to learn. Both the Beaufort and the Salkehatchie campuses are near enough to take advantage of such a program.

Thanks again Ms. Peeples for an enjoyable and informative afternoon. I hope to return for a closer look at your remarkable collection.

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