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A day at the State Museum

on Wednesday, 22 July 2015. Posted in Columns, Opinions

Last Saturday, my twin granddaughters, along with my great nephew, and I traveled to Columbia for a day trip to visit The South Carolina State Museum. We all had a great time seeing the many exhibits displayed on the four floors. I particularly enjoyed the Carolina Makers exhibit which had some unique objects made by artisans living in our state. There was a large display of beautifully crafted musical instruments, including guitars, violins and mandolins. 

There was also some incredible and lovely willow furniture pieces handcrafted by Dan Shelley of Carolina Willow in Marion. The kids said their favorite exhibit was the laser section where they got to participate in some hands on experiments. They also enjoyed the display of prehistoric fossils. We visited the special display, called “Bugs” which features giant robotic insects, including fighting beetles, a preying mantis and a ladybug. 

One of my 10-year-old twins, however, was not so comfortable with the moving creatures and so it was a fast tour of that exhibit. We all enjoyed the Christmas in July exhibit which featured “The Polar Express in 4-D.” Not only were we immersed in the film with our 3-D glasses, but the blasts of air, vibrating seats and falling snow added a fourth dimension to our experience. We truly felt like we were riding that train to the North Pole. When the train in the film began moving, we actually felt the floor rumbling beneath our feet. 

I know that feeling well, because I have been working in an office located on Railroad Avenue behind train tracks for about eight years. Until we moved here, I never realized how many trains move through Florence each day. I can feel the vibrations from those powerful engines as they pass close behind the building where I work. The 4-D film captured that sensation very well. Also, there were snow flakes falling as we rode the rails to the top of the continent and blasts of cold air hitting our faces. We could smell the hot chocolate that was being served to the young passengers on the train and I wished they could serve us some too.

This movie was great fun, but it was very loud at times. I highly recommend it for older kids, but it may scare some small children. However, those I saw in the theatre that morning seemed fine. The State Museum is a wonderful place to get lost in for a day, although it would take several days to fully see and enjoy everything. I have been many times before, but there are always new things to see. 

I couldn’t help but remember the first time I visited this former textile mill. Before its renovation in the late 1980s, I was invited, along with other media, to tour this Columbia Mills Building, constructed in 1893. We were told about the vision for a state museum. I knew it would be great, but my imagination was limited. This facility continues to amaze me!

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