The South Carolina State Museum will celebrate 30 years of displaying art, history, science and entertainment to the people of the Palmetto State this weekend.
On Nov. 3 and 4, the museum will be open for free to the public.
The museum will kick off the weekend with its annual Fall Fest and Pickin’ Party Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The event will feature a parade, followed by live music with performers from the last 30 years, live art demonstrations, craft beer and three types of barbecue representing the entire state.
Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m., museum-goers can expect to indulge at the annual Celebracíon de la Herencia Hispana (aka Hispanic Heritage Celebration) with authentic Latin cuisine, music and dance performances, cultural displays and an “unbreakable” pinata.
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The road to the State Museum was a long and highly anticipated one. The State Museum Commission was established 15 years before the museum’s opening in 1988.
The original plan was to build the State Museum next to the Columbia Museum of Art and merge the two together.
That plan failed.
The next option was to build on the banks of the Saluda River, connecting the museum to the Riverbanks Zoo, which was estimated to cost the state about $22 million.
That plan also failed because state leaders were unwilling to fund the expensive project.
Finally, the State Museum Commision won support from the then-Gov. Dick Riley to obtain the the Columbia Mill building on Gervais Street and, finally, break ground on the museum.
With new life on the horizon for the 19th-century textile mill building, a bright future was in store for the new State Museum.
The museum opened its doors Oct. 29, 1988, with a goal to “collect, preserve and showcase South Carolina and her rich heritage for the education and entertainment of all its guests,” said Jared Glover, a spokesman for the State Museum.
With each year that passes, the museum updates exhibits, discovering what it can improve, Glover said.
“We are always looking at the best use of the building, how we can collaborate better,” said William Calloway, the State Museum’s executive director. “How are we going to use the technology in a good way? How can we enhance it, embrace it and run with it?”
Calloway’s five-year plan for the museum includes improving the permanent galleries to become more competitive and inclusive in the marketplace.
“We need to make sure that we are developing programs for all South Carolinians,” he said.
One of the museum’s most recent advances is a statewide education program aimed at reaching students in schools around the state who might not have the resources to travel to Columbia to visit the museum.
These schools have the opportunity to learn from State Museum educators from their own classrooms. From collections to astronomy, the State Museum delivers content to schools and communities outside of the museum’s walls.
Within its walls, the museum has added some significant upgrades in recent years.
In 2014, the 75,000-square-foot “Windows to New Worlds” expansion project opened, allowing the State Museum to add a new focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
The $23 million renovation included the BlueCross BlueShield Planetarium, which is one of the largest in the southeast; the Dr. Rev. Solomon Jackson Jr. 4D Theater, which is the only permanent 4D theater in the state; and the Boeing Observatory.
The expansion project took 17 years to bring to fruition. It has since contributed some $19 million to the state’s economy and downtown Columbia, museum officials say.