NEWBERRY — For every dollar government appropriates for the arts, the government can recoup over $7 in tax revenue.
That message was at the heart of an update from Bob Montgomery, president of the Newberry County Historical and Museum Society, and Denise Reid as they spoke to the Newberry County Governmental Association on Monday about the impact an expanded museum would have on Newberry County from a cultural and economic standpoint.
Reid said turning the old post office/library into a museum would provide a central location and offer handicap accessibility, two things that could spur the community to use it more often.
She also shared her belief that people will be more likely to take care of their neighborhood when they know something about its history, such as why a road carried a particular name.
“This is not a new project, but we have put a new face on it,” Reid said. “The exterior is in good shape thanks to the work of county council.”
She said the group’s task forces are also helping with different facets of the project.
With maps and displays to highlight area attractions such as battlefields, Reid, Montgomery and their supporters see the museum as a way to draw tourism dollars not just downtown but out in the county’s municipalities.
She mentioned that in 2013, 18,000 visitors to The Museum Greenwood lived more than 50 miles from that city. Her hope is that an expanded Newberry museum will bring out-of-town visitors to Newberry County.
Anecdotes add up
Reid showed a slide of some Britannica Encyclopedias that would be part of a museum exhibit. The books were bought for $102 — which is not that noteworthy — but the $102 came from the sale of Confederate bonds.
The story is that Josiah Smeltzer raised some $46,000 for Newberry College in 1864 and the college chose to put the money into bonds rather than cotton. After the war, the bonds were worthless, placing the college in financial peril.
In 1882, $21,000 of those Confederate bonds were located and sold — for the $102 used to buy that set of encyclopedias.
Back stories like that, Reid said, would allow visitors to learn more about local history.
Reid said there are more anecdotes and artifacts related to Newberry County that could be lost without improved capacity for historic preservation.
The joint project of the museum and Newberry College has advantages for both institutions. The college had an archive but it has been dissolved and the current county museum, while it serves a specific purpose, has limitations, Montgomery and Reid said.
Reid said some items people have considered donating to the Newberry museum were donated elsewhere due to concerns the donor had about security, climate controlled areas, etc.
Reid invited elected officials to attend the next task force meeting from the Newberry Historical and Museum Society and the Newberry College Archives Committee on Saturday to learn more.
In other business, the meeting and meal presented opportunity for Prosperity Town Councilman Mike Hawkins to mention the campaign of his constituent, Lou Neiger, to make it illegal to text while driving in Prosperity, a position Neiger presented to county council and plans to present to other town municipalities.
Elected officials received that information as well as an overview from Newberry City Manager Al Harvey about changes to downtown traffic control sources such as the stoplight being removed from the corner of Lindsay and Main streets.
“That change had to be made before SCDOT would allow trees on the east end of Main Street,” he said. “And (Deputy City Administrator) Matt DeWitt has done a great job with streetscaping on Main and College streets.”
Next up will be paving Wolves Way, formerly known as Cemetery Street.
Harvey also touched on efforts along Evans Street from College Street to Glenn Street that caused Evans Street to be closed for an extended period. He said older utility lines are being replaced beneath the street at a significant cost to the city, particularly on the upper portion of the street.
Harvey said that work is ongoing and the road will be resurfaced when weather permits.
He also touched on a major expansion at Kraft Foods, thanking county and city officials for working to accommodate water, sewer and electrical services that coincided with the expansion at one of the county’s largest employers.
Harvey said the county is poised to make an announcement in the near future about its mega site industrial site, but said detailed comments would be premature at this time.
The Newberry County Intergovernmental Association also voted to dedicate $600 to sponsor two delegates to Girls State.
The association next meets June 30 in Whitmire. The other two 2014 meetings are Sept. 29 in Prosperity and Dec. 29 in Little Mountain.