by Sharon Purvis
Museums are a great way to learn about a small slice of history—and from trains to baseball to kitchen gadgets to Cherokee Nation history, there are some fascinating museums big and small in various corners of the Upstate that are worth checking out.
For art lovers, there are a few not-to-be-missed museums in the area, like the Greenville County Museum of Art, which has the largest collection of Andrew Wyeth watercolors of any public museum in the world; and the Spartanburg Art Museum at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, whose current exhibit, In Their Element, explores the four basic elements—earth, fire, water, and air—as metaphors for life.
The Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery, whose collection includes 420 religious-themed paintings by masters such as Rubens, Botticelli, and Honthorst and more than 1,000 antiquities spanning 37 centuries, is currently closed for renovations, but there are still ways you can see parts of the collection in the meantime.
There are some quality county museums focusing on county-specific heritage and history, such as the Oconee History Museum , the Anderson County Museum, and the Cherokee County History and Arts Museum. The Union County Museum, the Museum and Railroad Historical Center in Greenwood, and the Greer Heritage Museum all chronicle local history through artifacts and photographs as well.
For kid-friendly museum exploration, visit the Spartanburg Science Center, full of interactive exhibits, live animals, bones and fossils, and educational displays, or the Children’s Museum of the Upstate—which has a second location in Spartanburg—where kids (and grown-ups) can explore art, music, water, movement, and more.
And, of course, there are plantations and historic homes that preserve history so visitors can step back in time: the Burt-Stark Mansion in Abbeville, Ashtabula and Woodburn Historic Homes in Pendleton (closed for the winter currently, but private tours may be arranged), Oconee Station Historic Site, the Hanover House in Pickens, Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site in Union, and Walnut Grove Plantation in Spartanburg.
Even if you’re aware of all of those museums, here are some smaller niche museums you may have missed:
- Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina: a tribute to Cherokee history and culture (Walhalla, SC; open Thursday–Saturday 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.)
- General Store Museum: a recreation of England’s General Merchandise store, with genuine historic artifacts (127 E. Main Street, Westminster, SC; open Thursday–Saturday 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.)
- Bob Campbell Geology Museum: more than 10,000 rocks, minerals, and fossils plus paleontological exhibits (140 Discovery Lane, Clemson, SC; open Monday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.)
- Hub City Railroad Museum: housed in the depot building, displays include railroad artifacts as well as items that would have been shipped by railroad (298 Magnolia Street, Spartanburg, SC; open Wednesday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.)
- Miller Bible Museum at North Greenville University: A collection of rare printed Bibles, including a tiny Bible only an inch and a half tall (7801 N. Tigerville Road, Tigerville, SC; call 864-977-7091 for hours)
- The Historic Belton Train Depot houses two different museums: The Ruth Drake Museum’s holdings include all kinds of artifacts of domestic life, from kitchen gadgets to farm implements, and the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame includes portraits of inductees, and plenty of other tennis memorabilia. (100 N. Main Street, Belton, SC; open Wednesday–Saturday; call 864-338-7400 for hours)