SC State Museum combines laser lights, live music, a night time observatory, and more for a lively, fun 2017
For so many people, the term “museum” immediately conjures images of ancient artifact displays, aged sculptures kept in glass cases, or paintings of Renaissance era aristocrats. While museums are obviously packed with educational value, they have never quite earned the reputation of being lively entertainment spots. However, the South Carolina State Museum (SCSM) strives to change that in 2017, with an array of both family-friendly and adults-only activities, exhibits, and special events.
“For any guest who has never been to the museum, be prepared to take in all of South Carolina,” said Jared Glover, SCSM’s public relations manager. “The food, the history, the art, the culture, even the prehistoric animals that once lived in South Carolina and the great artists who are still living here today—it’s all here.”
SCSM boasts exhibits falling under four major disciplines—art, science and technology, natural history, and cultural history—all housed under one roof, separated by floors. Some of the artifacts found in the museum are over 14,000 years old, detailing the lives of Native Americans who once lived in this area. On the natural history floor, museum guests will be awed by 70-million-year-old dinosaur bones and giant replicas of mastodons and prehistoric megalodon sharks.
The art gallery at the museum is also an impressive draw. “It took our curator over a year to gather all the pieces to tell a story about South Carolina,” said Glover. “Every piece in the gallery is intertwined with the others—some of these artists have done pieces inspired by other artists featured in the gallery. All the artists here were born in South Carolina or learned to improve their craft in South Carolina.”
While the featured artists may all be South Carolinians, the museum does showcase a broad spectrum of what “South Carolina art” may constitute. One fascinating by folk artist Herman Thompson, called“Wild West Town,” is made entirely from coat hangers. “He’s from Winnsboro, and he literally learned his craft from visiting junk yards,” said Glover. There are also Native American pottery pieces from the Upstate. “The clay used to make those pieces is from sacred Native American ground and has been prayed over,” Glover explained. “It’s very moving.” There are also stoneware pieces from artists like David Drake, a literate slave who lived in South Carolina.
“We really try to cover everything that represents what South Carolina is,” said Glover. “And we rotate our art out, so in the fall, many of these pieces will be gone and others will take their place. But our exhibits team is fantastic at creating new spaces, changing the walls, and moving pieces. If you come now and then come again in the fall, it’s going to be a completely different gallery.”
SCSM strives to accommodate families with the Discovery Center, a hands-on, interactive room for young children, and a sensory-friendly room for children with special needs. And unlike many museums, SCSM also has a family-friendly 4D theater in house—while 3D films play, the theater contributes a 4D sensory experience complete with smells, physical sensations, and increased visual effects. Until May 31, the theater will feature Happy Feet 4D Experience, where guests will feel snow falling on them and splashes of water as they sail through the intensely fun movie scenes. During this film, the theater chairs vibrate to the bass of the music and the stomping of the characters’ feet. A storm falls in the theater around the guests, and they feel the cold air as they soar off snowy mountains along with the characters. It is a thrilling, wild experience that will surely delight children—and likely, many adults, too.
SCSM also houses its own planetarium, an immersive, 145-seat dome-shaped theater that offers shows that both children and adults will enjoy. Until Sept. 5, the planetarium will daily feature a 40-minute dome show called, “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure,” which has been adapted by IMAX to specially fit the museum’s planetarium. The planetarium also offers full-length astronomy shows, and, every Tuesday night, a laser show. Featuring popular music from artists like The Beatles, the show is kid-friendly and choreographs laser lights to the music.
The Boeing Observatory is increasingly one of the museum’s most possible attractions. According to Glover, there are only a handful of comparable observatories across the country. “We’re very fortunate to have this,” he said. “It’s a great spot to come at, day or night. The terrace is never too hot this time of year.” Every Tuesday, the museum stays open until 8 p.m. to accommodate guests who want to enjoy night sky viewing in the observatory. To encourage museum attendees to check out the telescope gallery and observatory in the evenings, STSM runs a special called Second Shift Tuesday, where admission is two for $10.
SCSM in the Evenings: Events for Adults
According to Glover, what makes the museum particularly fascinating this year is the lineup of special events the museum has planned. The planetarium, for example, will host a series of adults-only laser shows. The next adults-only laser show is February 17 and will set full-color laser lights to music from the Dave Matthews Band, the B-52s, and, of course, Pink Floyd’s The Wall. “We knew there would be an interest in doing these type of shows, but we didn’t ever think this program would get it as big as it is,” said Glover. “For our last show, the tickets sold out as soon as put them for sale online. Now, we try to make each laser show as fun for guests as possible, with beer, wine, and a food truck on site.”
With Valentine’s Day approaching, SCSM will host “Amore Under the Stars” on the evening of February 9 with a special love-themed planetarium show, a historical romance museum tour, and a night sky viewing in the observatory. “We did this last year, and people loved it,” said Glover. “It’s very romantic to go up to the observatory and look at the stars, and we have food and a bar set up, too. This year, we will have live music, and a cool feature about different famous romantic couples’ characters in movies and books.” Although, as Glover, pointed out, it may be hard to top last year’s Amore Under the Stars—when one guest dropped to his knee and proposed to his date. (And, of course, “she definitely said yes,” according to Glover.)
While staying faithful to the traditional themes of a state museum, SCSM has incorporated full sensory experiences, programs for adults only, live music, and many other unique experiences for its guests. “We’re not just geared toward education, but also for entertainment with education,” explained Glover. “Right now, we have our eyes on creating great events for each of the disciplines we feature here. We want to make things fun, and we want to offer educational shows, too.”
Below is a list of some of the events coming up in the next three weeks at SCSM. All event tickets are available online. For more information, visit www.scmuseum.org.
January 31: Bluegrass Night at Second Shift Tuesday. While every Tuesday night features the 2-for-$10 admission, this special event will offer live music from the SC Bluegrass and Traditional Music Association while guests are encouraged to tour the museum and visit the observatory for night viewing.
February 9: Amore Under the Stars. For Valentine’s Day, adults are invited for romance history tours, a planetarium show, romantic sky viewing in the observatory, live music, food, and a cash bar.
February 13: Friday Night Laser Lights Winter Edition The planetarium will host a laser light show set to music from the Dave Matthews Band, B-52s, and Pink Floyd. There will be a cash bar and food truck on site.
February 15: Sensory Friendly Day. Presented by SC Autism, this event offers special themed activities in an environment that is less crowded and features light and sound reduction.
Feature photo caption: Museum staff set up a display of a protostega gigas for the Savage Ancient Seas exhibit. Protostega gigas is an extinct genus of turtle that lived approximately 65-98 million years ago. It is the second largest turtle that ever lived, second only to Archelon.