To appreciate Beaufort’s history, start at this museum
The Beaufort History Museum is ready to emerge from its pandemic-imposed cocoon, with new features at the refurbished Arsenal to greet visitors who want to learn more about Beaufort’s singular history.
“This is a special museum,” said Steve Guida, president of the museum’s board. “We are a hidden gem — more people should know about our local museum and our local history.”
The museum recently mounted “wayfinding” signs in the courtyard of The Arsenal that tell the story of the Beaufort Arsenal and its militia units over the past 223 years. (If you are not familiar with the term wayfinding, it refers to signs that provide information and context.)
Museum board member Bill Skipper and the Exhibit Committee, along with local history consultants Dr. Steve Wise and Dr. Larry Rowland, provided much of the research behind each of the signs, which describe aspects of Beaufort’s militia history as well as historic pictures of The Arsenal.
History Workshop of Charleston produced the signage, which was supported by a grant from the City of Beaufort and museum funds.
The museum itself, on the second floor of this historic building, relates Beaufort’s history starting with the Yamassee Indians, who moved into the Lowcountry in the latter part of the 17th century. It traces various European conquests, through the Colonial period, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Our differentiation comes from the fact that we are the only museum that covers the 500+ year history of the Beaufort District,” Guida said. “Other organizations tend to focus on one specific area or time frame while we provide the broad history of people, places and events of the region.”
Beaufort’s history is a rich one, and the museum board wants to share it not only with out-of-town visitors, but also those who have made their home in the area. Families looking to spend a couple of hours with their kids on an educational, but fun, excursion (check out the cannons!) will really enjoy visiting, Guida says.
Not many history museums can actually claim to have a home in a building with its own impressive past, but that is what the Beaufort History Museum has at The Arsenal. The Arsenal was built in 1798 to house the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery after it fought with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It was a military post until 1963.
“Beaufort’s arsenal represents the anchor of our community since it became a fledgling community,” said board Vice President Kathryn Mixon. “Both military installation and as well as an important social venue, it was the heart of the community. Over the next 80 years, The Arsenal gradually became less and less significant as a military installation and social outlet and finally was pretty much abandoned.
“Because this facility was so dear to the hearts of the local community, its use was repurposed to that of a museum housing artifacts from her long and illustrious history,” Mixon added. “We hope to make The Arsenal once again the belle of our town.”
Toward that end, last year the City of Beaufort completed a partial refurbishing of The Arsenal, replacing old windows, installing new bathrooms, and repairing the upper and lower roof.
The museum is in the midst of a series of exhibit upgrades, Guida said. Next, the board hopes to display more artifacts from Beaufort’s past. The museum also has a room devoted to changing exhibits. The current one showcases movies made in and around Beaufort.
“Our location in the historic Arsenal provides a nice starting point for anyone wishing to learn the history of our area,” Guida said. “We are an all-volunteer organization responsible for the safekeeping of the City’s collection of important and historic artifacts.”
About the Beaufort History Museum:
Beaufort History Museum focuses on the history of the Beaufort District. It manages and displays artifacts and documents held by the City of Beaufort, telling the compelling stories of this area from the early 16th century until modern times. The Arsenal is located at 713 Craven St., and the museum is accessed through the Visitors Center on the first floor. A small admission fee is charged, but donations are appreciated. Guided and self-guided tours are available. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tue-Fri; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat
Docent classes are conducted on an ongoing basis. Docents are on duty to provide information and conduct tours. Please visit www.beauforthistorymuseum.com or the BHM Facebook page for updates and news from the Museum. For information on becoming a Docent or Volunteer Greeter contact the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843-379-3079.