WHAT: Historic Happy Hour at Hollings Library
WHERE: Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, University of South Carolina
WHEN: 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15
What do you get when you mix works of famed South Carolina author Pat Conroy, the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, Historic Columbia and locally crafted bourbon?
A good time.
Guests will get a look at “Pat Conroy: A Retrospective,” the first major exhibit of the Conroy collection, which was acquired back in May 2014. Those books will be paired with samplings of local craft whiskeys from Crouch Distilling.
Afterward, Jessica Crouch – USC archivist, curator of the exhibit and co-founder of Crouch Distilling – will lead VIP tours of the department’s special-collections vault and stacks, which boasts world-renowned acquisitions of famous literary giants such Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, Joseph Heller and, of course, Conroy.
We’re a closed stack facility so the only people who typically get to go and view our vault are employees, so this is sort of a VIP experience.
Jessica Crouch, USC archivist and curator of the exhibit
“It’s a really large-scale exhibit,” Crouch said of the Conroy collection. “He turned 70 in October, so it’s 70 years of this man’s life and 40 years of his writing life and trying to create a retrospective exhibit about all of that. So it looks at not just the 11 books that he’s written but also his life, because you can’t look at Pat Conroy’s writing career without also exploring his life because everything he writes is so incredibly autobiographical.”
So the exhibit starts at the beginning, reflecting on his childhood as a “military brat” with his six siblings. It then goes into his time playing basketball at The Citadel, which led to “The Water is Wide,” the novel that made him a national name. And it keeps going from there.
When Historic Columbia heard about the exhibit, they thought not only would it be great to collaborate with Hollings Library, but the exhibit would make for the perfect setting for the first happy hour of the new year.
“I’m really excited about this one,” said Dickson Monk, director of marketing and communications for Historic Columbia. “This is an incredibly special collection. And to get an inside look at the vault is not something many people get to see. They have so many incredible artifacts in there.”
Crouch Distilling, launched by Jessica and husband Phil, will provide the bourbon.
Since opening in 2014, Crouch Distilling has produced five whiskeys, all of which will be available for tasting, along with beer and wine.
“I think this is going to be one of our most popular happy hours yet,” Monk said. “We’ve already seen a lot of interest in it. Again, the influence of these great things – Pat Conroy, the first exhibition of his collection here, newly acquired local craft whiskey that a lot of people haven’t had an opportunity to try yet, a visit into the vault and stacks of the special collections – I think it has a lot of different angles that are going to interest a lot of different people.
“Pat Conroy fans are going to be thrilled to see this,” Monk added. “His original manuscripts that he’s made notes on and his personal photographs. This is his stuff. This is his collection. And he’s placed it in the hands of Hollings Library knowing that it’s in good hands there for future generations to see. Very exciting to see.”
THE VIBE: As you arrive, the Conroy exhibit is in the Brittain Gallery. Sip on drinks, sample whiskey and nibble on hors d’oeuvres while you browse. Crouch and other staff members will be on hand to answer questions, and Crouch will take small groups through the vault and stacks. Getting a VIP tour of rare books most of the public doesn’t get to see – plus sampling a craft whiskey while doing it – makes for an experience you often don’t get in a library.
THE VERDICT: This is the inaugural event with Historic Columbia and Hollings Library, and it’s getting a lot of interest. And it’s being offered in a casual, after-hours environment where you can enjoy a drink and get to know the collections. So when you combine Conroy, Hollings Library and Historic Columbia, you get a perfectly blended trifecta – not to mention the classic combination of whiskey and literature. Drink it all in.
If you go
Historic Happy Hour at Hollings Library
COST: $15 for Historic Columbia members, $20 for nonmembers; for ages 21 and older. Food and drink included. Reservations are recommended, as space is limited.
WORTH NOTING: Park in the Bull Street parking garage on the University of South Carolina campus at 649 Bull St. Enter through the main entrance of the Thomas Cooper Library, 1322 Greene St.