January 9, 2014

Georgetown County Museum to cut ribbon on new building, offering new exhibit

The Georgetown County Museum has a new home, and the community is invited to its grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.

The Georgetown County Museum has a new home, and the community is invited to its grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.

The new facility, which is located at 120 Broad St., is triple the size of the old building, which was located on Prince Street, and highlights more than 300 years of Georgetown County history. The museum originally blossomed because of the Georgetown County Historical Society. It constructed the exhibits in 2005 and outgrew its space several years later.

The museum boasts more than a dozen collections of local art and history, from a Native American display to a collection about life on a Southern plantation. Many of the exhibits stem from Georgetown County Historical Society’s collection efforts, which was founded in 1955 and continues to amass county treasures.

The new space is a big step for the organization because it gives curators the ability to control every object donated to the museum.

“First of all, it means a space we can control the collection in, an environment to keep our own,” said Mary Boyd, a board of directors member for the society.

The space also boasts classrooms, which allows for the continued education effort geared toward Georgetown’s youth, including hands-on activities, walking tours of downtown and a boat trip.

Most of the funding for educational activities comes from the Yawkey Foundation a national philanthropy – started by former owners of the Boston Red Sox Tom and Jean Yawkey – that awards grants to all types of organizations.

“(The foundation) liked our ideas so much, they renewed our grant for a third year,” Boyd said. “And they don’t renew their grants, so we were really honored to have that happen.”

Sixty years of collecting has provided the museum with a core exhibit, including a timeline of the county, said Jill Santopietro, museum director.

“People have been sharing Georgetown County treasures with the society since then, and when the museum opened the pace quickened,” Santopietro said.

The entire second floor earned the name “History, Heroes and Treasure” because of the mass amount of local content donated to the historical society, but the first floor features two revolving galleries. The newest gallery, which opens Friday, is from Bud Hill and Billy Baldwin, titled “The Unpainted South.”

Baldwin is a lifelong resident of the Lowcountry and an award-winning novelist, biographer and historian. Selden “Bud” Hill is a photographer and artist, and also the founding director of The Village Museum in McClellanville.

“ ‘The Unpainted South’ is a beautiful book of pictures, and they’re going to adapt the book to an exhibit all about Georgetown, complete with pictures, poems and songs from the past,” Santopietro said.

Looking in to the future, Boyd hopes for the museum to become a county research center open to all residents in search of the Waccamaw Neck’s history.

Much of the funding for the new center came from the past six Winyah Bay Heritage Festivals, which also shares space with the museum and the Historical Society. The total cost of the move was about $400,000, according to Santopietro, and about $200,000 was raised by the Winyah Bay festival.

The rest was raised by a capital campaign started in 2012 and wrapped up this past fall; some of the money was offered as leadership gifts from the museum’s board.

The new center has a 30-year lease, which gives the historical society plenty of time to continue educating the Waccamaw Neck about the rich history of the seaside city.

“We cannot even see a time where we would close, or the historical society would not be seeking to educate the community on the history and culture of Georgetown,” Boyd said.

The old building is privately owned, but was loaned to the museum during its first nine years of existence – a generous move by the owner, Santopietro said.

“It was loaned to us to incubate the museum, and (the owner) shared it with us because there was a need for it.”

More space means more room for lectures and classes at the museum, Boyd said. The society is even looking to expand their services to residents of the county.

“We are inviting people to hold private parties in the museum now,” Boyd said. “We finally have room for people to move around in.”

The gallery held a soft opening Tuesday after closing for several weeks during the transition.

“It’s going well so far,” Santopietro said. “We’re testing our systems and seeing how everything works. We’ve missed the visitors, and we’re looking forward to seeing them again.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony is 4 to 6 p.m., with an open house and refreshments to follow. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for people 60 years old and up, free for children under six and $2 for children over 7.

Tours with local volunteers are available most days, but there are self-guided options. Santopietro suggests those looking for detailed tours call ahead to make sure a volunteer is available.

Since the organization runs on completely donation-based funding, Boyd encourages anyone interested to become a member of the Georgetown County Historical Society. Interested parties can call the museum for more information.

For more information, call the museum at 545-7020 or visit

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