Sunday, December 30, 2018

South Carolina State Museum (SCSM)!

The highlight of nearly any trip to Columbia, South Carolina has got to be a stop at the State Museum. My first time there in 1990, it was a newly-opened facility, open 2 years (1988) in a converted century-old textile mill. It is an amazing place, covering all aspects of SC history, the sciences, and one of my main interests, a new observatory with a century-old telescope! One of my last trips there, they had a major part of the museum under construction building the observatory seen above the roofline at left.

Immediately seen as you enter the building is the tripod upon which the telescope sits up on the 4th floor. Shown at right, most likely don't know what it is, but note that the tripod that insulates the telescopes from building vibrations is even incorporated into the new emblem of the SCSM - note the embroidered patch and name tag on the inset!

Just past the ticket desk is a store that sells everything South Carolina! Being that it was just before Christmas for my visit, there was lots of cutsie gifts for those that have everything - like the kitchen towels that say Jingle y'all and the like (Left).

There is lots of symbolism in the SC flag and it appears on most everything from flip flops to glasses, including the silver bowl shown at right... Carolinians take their history seriously and there is quite the history section in their books for sale. They continue to relive the "War of Northern Aggression", and the second largest section is likely cooking books! I asked one of the young sales clerks what I couldn't live without (I just wanted to hear her delightful southern-belle accent), and she steered me towards the chocolate-covered caramel popcorn. But while her accent was adorable, was able to turn down the treats!

Just across from the store in the entryway
was the "Palmetto Gate", featuring the craft of Philip Simmons, a blacksmith-turned-artist in the Charleston area. Wrought iron work like this is very popular, adding to the allure of older neighborhoods in that city. This work was custom designed for the museum by Simmons. It shows incredible craftsmanship and details in the gate highlights - details shown at right...

There were a couple of commissioned artworks from local artists - using some unusual media! Shown at left is the detail of a portrait by Molly B. Right - in bottle caps on wood! Only when you back up and see the whole piece do you see it is the scientist Albert Einstein!  This was made for a 2014 exhibit "Building a Universe".

With a rotating set of exhibits, there is always something new to see. In fact, on one out-of-the-way hallway, there was a wall filled with posters of the various exhibits over the 30 years of the museum. I think it was in that same hallway that I found some new displays using old photos showing the transformation to century-old textile mill to state-of-art museum...

But the main reason I was there was that it was a Tuesday, and on Tuesdays (weather permitting) the observatory was open for public viewing! It isn't often one gets to observe through a century-old 12" telescope from the classic Alvan Clark and Sons manufacturers! And unlike Lowell Observatory and their classic 24", where I asked to focus a fuzzy image and told "NO", these guys not only told me to focus, and gave me the controller to "drive around" the moon! At left our telescope operator lines up on a gibbous moon as twilight approaches.

A little later as it got darker, we all gravitated to an outer deck where an additional Dobsonian could be set up, as well as spot city lights of Columbia a couple miles to the east. Also as part of the observatory expansion was increased display area for the Bob Ariail antique Telescope collection. I alternated with touring the collection of Clark and other manufacturers from the 1700s and 1800s, with walking out into the dome for fine views of the moon and tiny disk of Mars at 400X.

Finally I got my fill, and I had family to visit on my first night in Columbia, so headed out. Interestingly I saw that you could rent the museum and even the telescope for private events! I loved that they had a photo of a bride fondling the nearly century-old Clark telescope! It makes such a wonderful groom!

Finally out in the parking lot, I looked back at the observatory and could barely make out the shape of the telescope and observers inside the dome, so was worth trying to get a photo from outside. Shown at right the ghostly scope can be seen thru the windows out to the patio,

In short, if you get to Columbia, in fact, anywhere in the state, it is worth your while to head down to spend the better part of a day at the State Museum. It will likely always be a destination when I'm in town!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice images thanks for the trip view