A recent visit to the Spartanburg Regional History Museum
proved that it is a terrific example of how enjoyable and illuminating a small museum can be when its artifacts are presented in a surprising, engaging manner that combines the objects of the past with a keen, historical context.
In its new location on the second floor of the west wing at the Chapman Cultural Center
, the museum itself is just one large room, but it is packed with the relics of more than 400 years of Spartanburg County
history, many of which are displayed along an easy-to follow timeline that includes interactive computers that can provide more information on many items on exhibit.
The oldest piece on display in the museum is the Pardo Stone, which was found by a farmer in Inman. It is believed that it was left in Inman by the Spanish conquistador Juan Pardo, who, in the later part of the 16th century, led expeditions to organize the first Spanish colonies in what is modern-day North and South Carolina.
Next I learned about the military history of the area, from the Battle of Cowpens
, an important victory for the colonists during the American Revolution, to Spartanburg’s Camp Croft, which housed more than 700 POWs during World War II.
I also found out more about the region’s cotton mills, which drove its economy for nearly 100 years. (By the way, take a look at the cabinets underneath the timeline; they are made from reclaimed wood from the Riverdale Mill.)
A particularly fun exhibit for kids is the wall of tiny doors at the far end of the room. Each door is numbered, and when you pull the door open, you find out what the number references. Example: Open the door marked 600 and you will find out that’s the number of seats in Spartanburg’s first auditorium.
You also will not want to miss the permanent wave machine. Just look for the large, frightening metallic object that looks like some sort of medieval torture device. The accompanying picture of the small child hooked up to this monstrosity in an effort to give her perfect curly locks will make you think hard about the cost of beauty.
The Regional History Museum also features a rotating exhibit. The current exhibit is called Spartanburg by the Numbers and uses math as a route to understanding the area’s history. Soon the museum will unveil its newest exhibit, which will focus on higher education in Spartanburg. The region has six institutes of higher learning (and a seventh on the way,) and the exhibit will look at the history and influence of these colleges and universities.
The Spartanburg County Regional History Museum
is located in the Chapman Cultural Center
and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and veterans, $2 for kids ages 6-17 and free for children 5 and younger.