Smithsonian sports exhibit coming to County Museum next summer

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why travel to Washington, D.C., to see a Smithsonian exhibit when you can stay right in Georgetown County?

This time next year, the Georgetown County Museum will be host to a traveling Smithsonian Institute exhibit, “Hometown Teams: How sports built America.” The exhibit will be at the museum for six weeks, from July 25 to Sept. 6, 2015.

Georgetown County Museum is one of five organizations state-wide to feature the exhibit and one of 45 nationally.

The Georgetown County Historical Society runs the museum and, according to historical society board of directors Secretary Mary Boyd, the society had to apply for a grant to be awarded the opportunity.

It was awarded the $2,500 matching grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council, the organization that has partnered with the Smithsonian Institute to bring Hometown Teams to the state.

The exhibit is coming from the Smithsonian and, as a result, will feature several “top-notch, Smithsonian-grade” items, Boyd said, but, as the name implies, the exhibit is mostly about local sports and history.

The Smithsonian will only be supplying a few exhibit items – several display pylons that will feature information on different sports and their histories, a set of lockers, an interactive game construed from stadium bleachers, and an iPad – and the rest will be collected locally.

“We are hoping to highlight sports past, present and future,” Boyd said, such as information on the teams from the three defunct Georgetown-area high schools, details on current individual and team sports, and future opportunities like advances in sports medicine.

She said the historical society is in the early stages of deciding what to do with the exhibit.

Although much of the content is uncertain, it is clear oral interviews and written accounts of local sports experiences and memories will be wanted for the exhibit.

Boyd said the museum is hoping to get the schools involved, too, not only to make sure students see the exhibit, but also to get input from coaches and athletes on their sports.

The museum will be forming a committee in September to manage the upcoming exhibit.

In the meantime, however, museum staff and volunteers have already begun brainstorming ideas for special events, including ideas for a golf tournament, tailgate, sports gear costume contest, musical concert and guest lectures, to name a few.

“We’re going to call on government, local organizations and service organizations to help us with this,” Boyd said. “This will enable us to network and partner with a lot of other organizations that the museum wouldn’t have had an opportunity to work with before.”

She continued, “We want to highlight all of the people, events and nostalgia for Georgetown sports we can, but we also want to look at things like sports medicine, stuff that represents the future of sports.”

The future is a large element of Hometown Teams, and not just through the content.

“This is a project that will help build our future. It’s not just an exhibit that comes, is viewed, and leaves. This will give us contacts, resources, and will be a building block for future exhibits and future partnerships. This opportunity will carry the idea forward for years to come,” Boyd said.

She said the exhibit is proof that the museum’s future is bright, but the historical society can’t do it alone. It will take many volunteers and docents to make the exhibit a true success, Boyd said.

Some of the community is already behind the idea; the Georgetown County Library helped the museum get the grant by forgoing its own application.

Library Director Dwight McInvaill explained the library was applying for the grant “because we knew a wonderful sports exhibit would be very popular in our community” but decided to stop the application process when he heard the museum was also interested.

“I knew the library’s plate was already full with grant proposals, so I just furnished them with my notes and thoughts, as well as a letter of support. We are so very, very glad they were able to acquire this wonderful exhibit for the community.”

Boyd said the museum is equally as excited for the exhibit: “It’s just going to be fabulous.”

She encouraged everyone to make plans to visit the museum next July, even if they are not sports fans.

“Sports have built America in physical ways, emotional ways,” she said. “We hope this exhibit shows how important sports are to American culture and life.”

She said not only has sports history made an impact on Americana, especially in small towns, but the exhibit itself will make an impact on small towns as well.

“This is an exhibit for small towns, and it can benefit small towns in a big way, and give us an opportunity to shine with increased revenue, increased recognition and it will just bring people into our area.”

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