I’d heard about the Horry County Museum and I thought, like most local history museums, it would probably be okay but nothing special. Boy was I wrong! After spending two hours there with a five year old and a ten year old, we all decided that it is a pretty cool place and we definitely want to go back.
Located in downtown Conway in the former Burroughs school, which was built between 1905 and 1921 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum has lots of space to expand, host traveling exhibits, and offer programs and special events. Filled with South Carolina history and southern culture, it is on par with many other Myrtle Beach attractions at a fraction of the cost.
For those of us of a “certain age,” wandering the halls of the old school building with its gleaming wooden floors and wide hallways brings back memories of slide rules, tons of books, and trying to stuff full skirts into the narrow wooden desks. In fact there is an exhibit room devoted to those Halcion days, with football helmets, textbooks, student desks, and even a fluffy pink prom dress.
Ten rooms on two floors are devoted to various exhibits ranging from prehistory to the present. A Native American hut, pottery and tools depict the lives of the ancient Waccamaw people, and Gullah culture is represented by sweetgrass baskets. Household items for everyday use include a spinning wheel, washing machines, irons and an ironing board.
Local industry is showcased in a room that features timber, turpentine, cotton, rice, and tobacco. Another prominent crop was indigo which was grown on plantations such as Vereen Memorial Gardens.
The most recent industry, tourism, tells of the rise of Myrtle Beach as a vacation destination with swim suits, pictures of former beauty queens and the promise of endless summer at the beach.
Fans of the Animal Plant channel may have seen the show “Tanked” where the stars Wayde King and Brett Raymer build custom fish tanks for celebrities and community organizations. In April 2014, their company Acrylic Tank Manufacturing was commissioned by the Horry County Museum to build a 4400-gallon fresh water tank to showcase local fish. The process was filmed and featured on the show. That episode plays on an endless loop in the auditorium and visitors can see how the tank was constructed, then go into the main lobby and view the results up close.
The aquarium displays fish that were caught in the Waccamaw and Pee Dee rivers as well as other local streams and lakes. Two tanks, one inside the other, separate the smaller fish from the bigger ones (so they don’t get eaten) and signboards identify the various fish species
In addition to the live aquarium, the natural history room of the museum features animals local to the area. The works of itinerate photographer William Van Auken Greene are featured in one room. Another room is devoted to the African American military men and women of World War II and how their fight to defend freedom helped bring about the fight for civil rights and desegregation in the 1960s.
The Horry County Museum also offers outreach programs and sponsors the L. W. Paul Living History Farm north of town. Events at the museum range from a film series, to lectures, to the annual Quilt Gala. The gift store on the ground floor offers a selection of books on local history as well as educational toys and crafts.
After visiting the museum, we were hungry, so we headed to Skips” on 3rd Avenue for burgers, hot dogs, onion rings, and sweet tea, but that’s another story.
The Horry County Museum is located at 805 Main Street, Conway SC 29526.
Phone (843) 915-5320.
Opening hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Admission to the museum is free, but donations are happily accepted.
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