A Critical Time for our Nation’s Museums

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Fielding Freed, HC director of house museums

“I love museums!” The comment was enthusiastic and genuine. It came from one of South Carolina’s Congressmen last month during Museum Advocacy Day organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A record attendance of more than 350 people from all 50 states who spent the day canvassing Capitol Hill underscored the concern over proposed cuts in federal funding for museums. Many of us do, as a matter of fact, love museums:

  • Museums are popular. There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than number of people who visit theme parks AND attend major league sporting events. Just one local example, in 2016 the South Carolina State Museum had over 160,000 visitors and a school visitation of 68,000.
  • Museums impact our economy. Nationally, museums sustain more than 400,000 jobs and directly contribute $21 billion to the economy each year. Here in South Carolina, where tourism is our number one industry, museums play a vital role in both entertaining our visitors (where do summertime tourists go on a rainy day?) but also educating them about the role our state has played in American history.
  • Museums serve the public. Just one example includes the twenty-five museums in our state that participate in the NEA’s Blue Star Museums initiative giving free summer admission to all active-duty and reserve personnel and their families (serving over 923,000 people nationwide).

The South Carolina delegation visiting Capitol Hill included students from USC’s Honors College and museum folks from Richland, Horry, Charleston, and Oconee counties. We spent the day meeting with our representatives to request that they maintain funding for the Office of Museum Services (OMS). The OMS, which is part of the larger Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awards grants that help to educate students, digitize collections, and engage communities.

Here are some interesting numbers that help to explain why we felt strongly enough to travel to D.C. to represent our state’s museums in person:

  • From 2014 to 2016, 3 South Carolina museums received IMLS grants totaling $139,000.
  • During those same years, 3 NEH and NEA grants totaling $553,000 went to five museums.
  • The Humanities Council of South Carolina received $2.1 million and the South Carolina Arts Commission $2.3 million. Those funds, in turn, flowed outward and supported a wide variety of museum programs and projects.

The proposed federal budget recently submitted by the White House will directly and negatively affect the historic and cultural organizations of South Carolina. Of particular concern is the proposal to eliminate entirely the NEA and NEH.  Now is the time, if you love museums, to act. We have helped start the conversation, but now it’s up to those who value what South Carolina’s museums contribute to our quality of life to voice their support before it’s too late.

With Senator Graham

Caption: Fielding Freed with other SC delegates visiting Senator Lindsey Graham on Capitol Hill last month.

Originally published in The Columbia Star

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Columbia Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia

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The burning of Columbia, SC was a major event in American history and a defining moment in the history of the state and city. Columbia, the site of the original Secession Convention and capital of the first seceding state, was seen by the Union army as a target to encourage the surrender of the remaining Confederate forces.

Columbia surrendered to the Union Army under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman on February 17, 1865, and while the soldiers’ arrival signaled the imminent emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the city, the city suffered widespread destruction. The legacy of this physical loss is a pillar of the city’s common folklore and memories of the war, and it remains hotly-debated today.

Historic Columbia is proud to be a part of Columbia Commemorates, a multi-disciplinary coalition comprised of Midlands and statewide organizations formed to plan and implement a city-wide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia. Through lectures; tours; film; visual, literary and performing arts; exhibits; public discussion; and large public gatherings, Columbia Commemorates will explore the events of February 17, 1865, as well as the immediate and long-term ramifications of the burning of South Carolina’s capital city.

You can see the full list of events, programs and exhibits at BurningofColumbia.com. Historic Columbia will present two Civil War Bus Tours and several lectures, as well as an exhibit of images of the post-burning destruction called Impressions of Chimneyville, on display at the Gallery at City Hall from Jan. 9 through March 31.

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Historic Columbia Foundation Awarded IMLS Museums for America Federal Grant for Mann-Simons Project

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COLUMBIA, SC (July 17, 2012) – Historic Columbia Foundation was awarded a $141,047 federal grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services in support of the Mann-Simonscommunity engagement project. HCF was one of 152 projects from more than 450 applicants selected for funding and is the only IMLS Museums for American grant recipient in the state of South Carolina for this year.

This funding supports a partnership between Historic Columbia Foundation, the University of South Carolina, Richland School District One and the Columbia Housing Authority. Using the city-owned Mann-Simons Site, the Foundation will implement, review, and refine a series of youth and senior programs and activities and develop a multi-discipline, multi-generational educational outreach program.

The project will use local history as the catalyst to extend meaningful outreach programs to high school students and senior citizens and enable the foundation to build greater organizational capacity for community engagement.

The Mann-Simons site, located at 1403 Marion Street, is one of seven historic properties managed by Historic Columbia Foundation and one of only a few sites in South Carolina once owned by freed African-Americans prior to the Civil War. This three-year project is slated to begin in September 2012.

Members of the media are encouraged to contact Ashley Tucker at 803.252.7742 ext 16 or atucker@historiccolumbia.org for more information.

About the Institute for Museum and Library Services:
Museums for America is the Institute’s largest grant program for museums, supporting projects and ongoing activities that build museums’ capacity to serve their communities. These grants strengthen a museum’s ability to serve the public more effectively by supporting high-priority activities that advance the institution’s mission and strategic goals. Funds can be used for a wide variety of projects, including research, planning, new programs, and activities that support the efforts of museums to upgrade and integrate new technologies.

About Historic Columbia Foundation:
In November 1961, a small group of individuals intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House from demolition, officially incorporated as the Historic Columbia Foundation. Over the next five decades the organization, which was founded on the premise ofpreservation and education, would take on the stewardship of seven historicproperties in Richland County. Today, the organization serves as a model for local preservation efforts and interpretation of local history. The 50th Anniversary year of Historic Columbia Foundation (which officially began onNovember 13, 2011) will include a variety of community celebratory events. Visit http://www.historiccolumbia.org for details.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/histcolumbia
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/historiccolumbia
Web: http://www.historiccolumbia.org
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/discoverhistory


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Have You Visited The SC State Museum's Titanic Exhibit? Special Discount for HCF Members in July!

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The South Carolina State Museum is offering a special discount to Historic Columbia Foundation Members this July! Get out of the famously hot summer heat and enjoy the new Titanic Exhibition this month with a special $3 off coupon. Be prepared to show your Membership Card when redeeming this discount. 

As you enter this feature exhibit, take on the identity of a real life first, second or third class passenger. Learn where they are from, where they are going and why they boarded the Titanic. At the end of the exhibit, find out if you survived the tragedy known as one of the greatest disasters in modern memory. The exhibit, open until September 16, features close to 200 artifacts and a “real-life” iceberg. Learn all about passenger life onboard the ship, read the many ice warnings the Titanic received (and ignored), and find out why they say “the Titanic was boomed from the beginning”.

Learn more about becoming a member of Historic Columbia Foundation here. Memberships start at just $35 and include free admission to our historic house museums, special discounts on programs and events and more!

Big thanks to the SC State Museum for extending this special discount to Historic Columbia Foundation Members! Learn more about the South Carolina State Museum on their website, Facebook Page and Twitter Feed.

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