The South Carolina State Museum embodies multiple disciplines, sharing the stories not only of South Carolina, but also incorporating the state's stories into the bigger global picture.
The state museum opened in 1988 and is housed in a textile building, which was the first electric textile mill in the entire country, according to Jennifer Thrailkill, the museum's director of marketing.
The museum consists of four floors and covers four major disciplines: art, natural history, cultural history and science and technology. In more recent years, the museum added a planetarium, a 4D theater and an observatory.
“The multidisciplinary nature of the museum gives us an opportunity to bring science, and art, and history and technology together. And that’s the way we all navigate the world, but so often in museums it's like, 'No, the history is over there, and the art's over here,'" executive director Amy Bartow-Melia said. "So it gives us an opportunity to kind of think differently about how we’re helping people engage with the objects and the assets of the museum that we have."
The museum's goal, according to Bartow-Melia, "is to be an educational resource for everybody in South Carolina, every day."
“I think [the museum] inspires. When you come in here, and you see these amazing objects or are able to see a sunspot or, you know, the night sky, it really gets people excited about learning," Bartow-Melia said. "An important role for the museum is to be a forum for conversation. It’s sort of like an equivalent of a town hall."
Bartow-Melia said the museum is a place for people from all different backgrounds to come together, interact and have conversations they might not get to have anywhere else.
With people feeling "polarized and isolated," because of COVID-19 or otherwise, having a space to bring people together to have conversations about today by looking at history is as important as ever, according to Bartow-Melia.
"History is a way of looking back and saying, 'OK, how did we get to where we are?' ... Let's look at the choices people made in the past, and then let's think about how that can inform how we’re going to work together to make a better future," Bartow-Melia said. “This is an amazing time for the museum to really take a close look at the diversity of stories that we are telling about South Carolina.”
The museum had many traveling exhibits over the years, such as King Tut, Body World and the Titanic, according to Thrailkill. Some of the most popular permanent galleries are the dinosaur exhibits and the megalodon shark — a state museum staple, according to Thrailkill.
“Our institution is at an age now where children who originally came when the museum first opened, they’re now bringing their kids here, and that is the thing that they remember — they remember Finn, our big megalodon,” Thrailkill said.
The South Carolina State Museum has something for everyone of all ages. Miranda Ritner, a mother whose family regularly participates in camps and programs at the state museum, said she thinks it is very important for the state of South Carolina.
“It’s good for everyone, it’s entertaining for everyone and even, you know, older kids, like teens and tweens, can find something that is interesting to them,” Ritner said.
The South Carolina State Museum has some big plans for the future. It is planning to digitize its collection, according to Bartow-Melia. This also gives the museum the opportunity to distribute educational content out to communities statewide, she said.
The South Carolina State Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.