NEWBERRY — Not many would imagine entering the front door of the white Coppock House located at 1503 Nance St. behind the Public Safety Complex would lead them to a voyage of discoveries of relics and artifacts that represent Newberry County and the people of the area.
The Newberry County Museum is a place where the antiquities speak for themselves.
Just 16 years ago, Newberry County had the chance of establishing its first museum with the support of the 10 charter members of the Newberry County Museum Association, now named the Newberry County Historical and Museum Society.
The Newberry County Museum consists of two houses located on the same grounds, the Coppock House and the Gauntt House.
Although some parts of the original construction of Coppock House remain intact, such as the wallpaper medallion on the ceiling of the front hall, restorations have also been made. As an example, the interior walls of the house were originally wallpapered over cheesecloth-like material tacked to the board wall.
Some members of the Newberry County Historical and Museum Society, with the help of volunteers, uncovered the wallpaper so the house could look more attractive to the public.
It was not hard to note the twinkle in the eyes of Jim Clamp, member of the Newberry County Historical and Museum Society, when he talked about the museum. Clamp affirmed that what triggered the idea of having an exhibition place at Newberry was the need for preserving the history of Newberry County.
“The museum is a great opportunity to promote the heritage of Newberry,” said Dr. Joseph Franklin, the department head of business, behavior and social science of Newberry College.
The rooms of the Coppock House and Gauntt Houses are filled with charts, maps, photographs, coins, medals, flags, records, and other antique artifacts. Interestingly enough, a few of those originated in other countries, such as the old spinning wheel that belonged to a Newberry County family and was made in Europe between 1750 and 1775.
One of the rooms in the Coppock House contains a doll collection willed to the Museum by Annie L. Swygert from Prosperity. Swygert left the museum around 400 dolls. Since there is not enough space for the 400 dolls, they are displayed 30 to 40 at a time on a rotating basis.
Another interesting feature of the museum is the portable melodeon given by the McSwain family. It belonged to the Rev. William A. McSwain, who was a Methodist Circuit Rider on the Newberry Circuit in 1849. McSwain’s wife played the melodeon at church services. With some minor repairs, it is still in good working condition.
“The museum is a very interesting place, I really loved it. It has fascinating displays,” said Sandra Smith, the research assistant at the Newberry College Library.
Smith recalled the first time she went to the Museum in 2006 at Christmas time, with the houses decorated for the season. Smith added that people in the Museum were dressed in period costumes. The second time was with Newberry College students from the honor society Phi Alpha Theta.
Clamp showed pride in the museum’s accomplishments, but acknowledged there are many areas that need to be improved.
“More than anything else, we need an additional building,” Clamp said, emphasizing that the new building needs to be bigger and better. Squirrels are also a threat to the museum because they chew on wooden decks, furniture, and clothes.
Clamp manifested his concern about the lack of signs to indicate the museum’s location. “People who come from other places or even from Newberry do not know about the museum or how to get here,” Clamp said.
Clamp said there were more people coming from other cities, states, and even other countries than from Newberry County to visit the museum.
The main goal of the Newberry museum is to emphasize the importance of history to the future.
In reality, the memories, pictures, photos, and objects found in the Newberry County Museum are symbols of a person’s humanity and need to be valued.
The Newberry County Museum is open on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., and will open at other times, upon request. Anyone who wants to schedule a visit can call Ernest Shealy at 803-924-0282.
Admission is free but donations are welcome. More information can be found online at www.newberrycountyhistorical.com. Clamp said the museum will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. during the 13th annual Newberry Oktoberfest on Oct. 5, and during the same hours on Dec. 7, the date of the Christmas parade.
Marina Ziehe is a junior at Newberry College studying communications, with a minor in graphic design. She is interning this fall with The Newberry Observer.