COLUMBIA — In the new exhibit, South Carolina and the Great War, opening Saturday, August 13 at the State Museum, guests will get an in-depth look at how one of the world’s most devastating wars impacted life in South Carolina. Guests will discover what life was like in the state on the eve of war, why America decided to join the war and the efforts South Carolina took to build up forces. The exhibit will also give guests an up-close experience of what life was like for the 3, 000 South Carolina soldiers who served overseas as well as what life was like for South Carolinians back at home.
“This exhibit is not so much just the military experience, but also the impact the war had on our country and state,” says JoAnn Zeise history curator at the State Museum. “You can make the argument that World War I was the pivotal event of the 20th century, taking us from the 19th century, setting up World War II and the Cold War, and shaping the map in ways still relevant today.”
In this exhibit, guests will travel back to the beginning of the 20th century, when South Carolina was still recovering from the Civil War. Other areas of the South rebounded with the rise of a “New South” but South Carolina was still struggling despite some bright spots of progress. South Carolinians strongly supported the war and a renewed sense of patriotism swept across the state. Eight South Carolinians who joined the military earned the Medal of Honor. One of those soldiers was Lt. James Dozier. The exhibit will display the pistol Dozier used during the engagement where he earned his Medal of Honor. Despite being wounded, he led his men to safety, killed an entire German machine-gun unit, and took several prisoners. Another soldier, whose name might sound familiar, is Guy Lipscomb Sr. Lipscomb’s uniform, along with others will be rotated into the display during the exhibit.
The soldier’s experience, including life in the trenches was dreadful. Some fought their terror and boredom by etching designs into shells and canteens known as trench art. Guests will be able to experience what it would have been like for soldiers by walking through a life-sized recreated trench, complete with weapons and trench art brought back from the war.
Life on the homefront wasn’t easy during the war, guests will see how South Carolina helped out with the war effort in South Carolina, from planting war gardens, voluntarily rationing items such as coal and manufacturing items needed for war. As if the war wasn’t hard enough on life in South Carolina, the Great Pandemic of the Flu of 1918 struck, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Guests will learn how nurses at Camp Jackson and the Charleston Naval Base tried to curtail one of the deadliest epidemics in our nation’s history.
South Carolina and the Great War will immerse guests into life in South Carolina and those of the troops during World War I and is free with general admission. The State Museum is open Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
As the state’s largest and most comprehensive museum, the South Carolina State Museum offers a unique, entertaining and educational experience to visitors throughout its 225,000 square foot facility located in the heart of downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista. The State Museum is housed in one of its largest artifacts, an 1894 old textile mill full of character and charm. Guests can explore outer space in one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, watch an interactive 4D movie and look through a vintage telescope in a one-of-a-kind observatory. These opportunities are all in addition to the four floors of South Carolina art, cultural history, natural history and science/technology. Visit scmuseum.org to learn more.
Photo courtesy of South Carolina State Museum Collection
South Carolina Governor Richard Manning at his home in Columbia c. 1918. Six of his sons served and one was killed in the trenches near Verdun just before war ended.
This story courtesy of the SC State Museum.