Newly restored Fireproof Building is only the container for treasures found inside


According to Architectural Digest, the new South Carolina Historical Society Museum is one of The 15 Most Noteworthy Museums Opening This Year, and it is opening Saturday, Sept. 22, in downtown Charleston.

The museum is housed in the historic Fireproof Building at 100 Meeting St. near Charleston's famed "South of Broad" area downtown. The building, which just completed a $6.8 million renovation, was originally constructed in 1826 by Robert Mills, considered America's first architect and creator of The Washington Monument.

Despite the beauty of the building itself, the collection inside is worth the short drive to Charleston. Drawing from the S.C. Historical Society's vast collection - much of which has never been displayed publicly - the museum will showcase more than 300 years of South Carolina history through the artifacts, personal treasures and hand-written accounts.

According to a news release from the S.C. Historical Society Museum, the following is an overview of each gallery:

- Gallery One: A Haven with Prospects - Exploration and Settlement

Showcasing the early settlement years of S.C., this gallery features interactive kiosks exploring the plight of several key figures including Rene Ravenel, Priscilla Ball, the Cassique of Kiawah and Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Guests can examine other items from this period, including a block puzzle made of Mark Catesby drawings, the Rev. Archibald Stobo's Bible from 1658 and a promotional tract from 1710 encouraging immigration.

- Gallery Two: Building a State and a Nation - New Horizons

Visitors to this gallery learn about the American Revolution and antebellum life throughout the state including the rise of slavery, urban and rural economies and migration to the upcountry. This gallery includes an interactive digital map table, allowing visitors a hands-on opportunity to explore S.C. in the late 1700s. There are also personal items from prominent figures including Francis Marion's powder horn, a letter from George Washington to Gov. William Moultrie, and a reproduction of Charleston's slave auction flag.

- Gallery Three: Our Land, Our Battles - War and Reconstruction

Transitioning to the 19th century, this gallery focuses on secession, the Civil War and Reconstruction in S.C. Drawing from first-person records in the Historical Society's collections, this gallery features interactive portraits of South Carolinians who come alive to tell stories about life during this time. Hand-drawn maps, photographs and scrapbooks are also on display.

- Gallery Four: Picking up the Pieces - Charleston Recovers

Examining life after the earthquake of 1886, this gallery features original items describing the natural disasters that plagued the Lowcountry after the Civil War, as well as the area's artistic renaissance that followed. Visitors will enjoy a brief film featuring historians and curators discussing the emergence of art, culture and preservation in Charleston.

- Gallery Five: Celebrating Diversity - Art, Literature and Culture

From arts to cuisine to Gullah culture, this gallery focuses on the rise of cultural diversity throughout the state. An interactive touchscreen allows visitors to learn about various influential figures and their artistic impact, alongside original works by icons like Loutrel Briggs - the renowned landscape architect. There are also "discovery drawers" that feature original typescripts, books, photographs and musical recordings.

- Gallery Six: This Abundant Land

The only rotating exhibit in the new museum, this gallery focuses on agriculture, foodways and the conservation of natural resources throughout the state. Original items on display include an 1851 edition of The Carolina Housewife featuring popular recipes and household solutions, a 1941 map of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge and the 1785 Rules of the St. Thomas Hunt Club in Berkeley County.

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