Jane Beverly Evans, an artist from Florence, helped found the museum in 1936. While traveling in the American Southwest during the 1920s, she met a man with the Santa Fe Museum. That museum had an excess of Native American pottery and they were looking for buyers. Evans saw this as an opportunity to begin a world-class art collection in her hometown and organized a purchase using funds that the League of Woman’s Services had left over from running a wartime tearoom to benefit the American Red Cross. The stunning collection of Southwestern native pottery still occupies one of the museum’s rooms today.
Another of my favorite rooms houses a miraculous collection of Asian artifacts that were brought back to South Carolina in the 1930s by missionaries hailing from Greenville. I could spend all day perusing the delicate designs on the china and examining the countless statuettes. Informative and interesting text accompanies the exhibits to provide cultural context. Especially fascinating is the display on foot binding, the traditional process by which women’s feet are contorted (and sometimes broken) from a young age in order to give them the appearance of delicate “lily feet.”
The Florence Museum of Art, Science and History is located at 111 West Cheves Street and is open Tuesday-Saturday 10a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.