History on display at restored Horry Co. Museum

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - It's difficult to put 150 to 200 years of history anywhere, but the Horry County Museum is working on letting hundreds of artifacts finally breathe, with a new home at least five times as large.

And WMBF News is giving you a sneak peek at what's coming.

"If you go downtown to the old museum, I think we've done a good job of telling chapters of the story, but never been fully able to open the whole book," admits Walter Hill, director of the Horry County Museum.

That's why the Horry County Museum, as it's always been at 438 Main Street in downtown Conway for more than 30 years is moving to another historical landmark on the National Historic Register, the former Burroughs School.

Now refurbished thanks to $6.4 million from the county's general fund, museum director Walter Hill says the restoration was a tall task.

"Being a 100-year-old building there are a number of obstacles to face, foundation issues, none of the piping and plumbing and electrical was there, so all that stuff had to come in and make code to make a 21st century public building," Hill explains.

But Hill says the 10,000 square feet of space alone, makes the process worth the effort, the original floors and much of the building, still preserved to present a walk through time.

"Two of those galleries will be focusing on the American Civil War, celebrating the sesquicentennial of the civil war," boosts Hill."The other two galleries down there will be permanent but changing exhibits."

Even items in storage will be open for display.

"A lot of people don't realize, as much as 90 percent of the museum's collection is in storage," sighs Walter Hill.

One of the items you might find on display, a locally used 100-plus year old wagon, which was donated as soon as the owner realized there was now space for it.

There's a room full of history waiting to be displayed. There's a construction room, where museum staff will build the roughly 800 custom display cases. Doing so in-house will help stretch the $500,000 donations, since there isn't a county budget for any of the artifacts or displays.

The most exciting aspect of the new museum to Hill is the 600 seat auditorium.

"Public programming through the museum, think having speakers, traditional music, arts, presenters and so forth in there," Hill dreams.

Demolition on the building started in 2009, so it's been a timely work in progress, but Hill says, the finished product will be well worth the wait.

"When you put this much effort in and maintaining and taking care and renovating, an historical structure like this and you're going to put exhibits in there that are gonna tell a very professional little story there, we wanna take our time and do it right," Hill assures.

The goal is to have the new Horry County Museum open to the public by next spring, or at the very least by the summer.

They're looking for donors to help preserve more artifacts and they need volunteers.

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