UNION — A total of more than 300 people visited the Union County Museum in May and June while the number of its online Facebook fans exceeded that of similar institutions.
Director Ola Jean Kelly reported that a total of 137 guests signed the museum’s guest register in May. Kelly said the number included residents of South Carolina from communities outside the county including Bishopville, Chapin, Charleston, Chester, Clemson, Gaffney, Greenville, Hardeeville, Kershaw, Prosperity, Rock Hill and Spartanburg. She said that visitors from outside of South Carolina were from Alabama, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
Kelly added that the museum got its first visitors this year from overseas in May. She said the international visitors were from Canada and Israel.
The number of visitors to the museum grew in June when 204 guests signed the register. Kelly the South Carolina visitors from outside the county were from Irmo, Moore, Lyman, Gaffney, Chester, Newberry, Johnsonville, Duncan, Pauline, Spartanburg, Sumter, Wellford, Whitmire and York. Out-of-state visitors were from California, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
Among the local visitors were children who were accompanied by their parents and/or other family members.
“We have noticed an increasing number of local families with young children,” Kelly said. “Our ‘Children’s Corner,’ funded by a grant from Wal Mart, is a big hit with these little ones.”
The museum has made extensive use of the Internet to publicize itself, the items it has on display, the services it offers, and Union County itself. As a result, the museum’s presence on the Internet grew over the course of 2013 and has continued to grow this year, attracting not only residents of Union County and the rest of America, but people from overseas.
“The daily reach total for May on Facebook was 8,399,” Kelly said. “As expected most of these are from the United States. However we do have ‘followers’ in Belgium, Azerbaijan, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Thailand and South Africa.”
Kelly pointed out that this growth has exceeded that of similar institutions with the May “friend” total of 1,615 exceeding that of Caroliniana (1,087), S. C. Railroad Museum (1,606), Spartanburg County Historical Association (1,100), Chester County Historical Society (615) and the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville (588).
At the end of June, Kelly said the Union County Historical Society — which owns the museum — had 1,648 Facebook fans, a number she described as “significantly more than most other public groups.”
Kelly reported that as of July 8, “our total membership is 440 which we believe to be an all- time high. People from all over the United States are finding us on the Internet/Facebook and are asking for membership packages.”
Meeting Room Use
The museum, which is located at 127 W. Main St., Union, is made up of two floors. On the Main Street floor is the museum proper with its displays of artifacts from throughout Union County’s history.
Beneath the Main Street floor is the basement level which is primarily used by local and area organizations and other groups for meetings.
In May, the meeting room was used by the DAR; UDC; Pinckney Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society; and Dow-watchers Investment Club.
The museum was host to meetings and tours in June by the Union County Historical Society which held its quarterly meeting in the meeting room; the Union County Carnegie Library Board, the Dow-watchers Investment Club; the “Silver Streaks,” seniors from Travelers Rest Baptist Church; and the Union County Clemson Board.
Cross Keys House
The museum is owned by the Union County Historical Society which also owns the Cross Keys House.
In 1865, the Cross Keys House was visited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, members of his cabinet, and their military escort as they fled south following the fall of the Confederate capital in Richmond, Va. to the Union army.
The historic nature of the plantation has made it a popular tourist attraction and the historical society is in the process of renovating the property to more fully restore its antebellum character while making it more convenient for visitors.
Kelly said that in May, Saturday traffic at the Cross Key House “continues to be excellent. Members of the Murphy family who grew up near the house used the grounds for a family reunion on Sunday, May 28. Approximately forty members were in attendance. Several passers-by were attracted by the crowd and stopped in to ask for a tour which the staff member on site was happy to provide.”
During the month of June, Kelly said “our beautiful Georgian Colonial house and plantation continue to grow in popularity. One recent Saturday saw 39 visitors tour the house and grounds. Preliminary plans are underway for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of what the late Col. W. J. Whitener called ‘a priceless piece of American History.’”
In May, Kelly presented a program on the Cross Keys Plantation at the Senior Adult Luncheon at Whitmire First Baptist Church. She was also able to share with the approximately 25 people present a power point presentation of Whitmire area postcards.
Kelly reported that on June 2 and 3, Suzanne Grieve (Collections Assessor)and William Anderson (AIA Architectural Assessor) toured the museum and the Cross Keys House as part of the Conservation Assessment Program. The purpose of the tour was to enable Grieve and Anderson to make a conservation assessment of the collection and properties.
“Suzanne’s assessment report with suggested goals is in and William’s will be available in July,” Kelly said.