By Brian Reed
From a world-renowned evangelist to college students who built an airplane, from world-class art linked to nature to fossils of a giant beaver, the museums in North Carolina and South Carolina tell the stories of fascinating individuals and interpret art in fascinating ways.
Billy Graham Library
The Billy Graham Library isn’t a typical museum. The rustic barn architecture of the library is disarming, much like the man it commemorates.
“The Billy Graham Library is an inspirational place to visit,” said Debra Cordial, director of the library. “We hear it time and time again from our guests that there’s a peace you experience when you drive on the property.
“The Billy Graham Library is not a memorial or museum. It’s a ministry. Guests have the opportunity to walk through history, experiencing significant moments in the life of ‘America’s Pastor,’ our nation and the world.”
The 20-acre property includes the 40,000-square-foot library whose architecture pays homage to Graham’s roots on a dairy farm about three miles away. The library takes visitors through Graham’s journey of faith with rooms featuring his relationships with U.S. presidents, highlighting occasions he addressed the nation at troubled times, pictures and videos from his crusades and travels, and mementos and gifts from dignitaries.
The Homeplace is a replica of the two-story brick Colonial house Graham lived in as a child; the Memorial Prayer Garden includes the gravesite of Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell Graham, who died in 2007.
The Graham Brothers Dairy Bar can accommodate large crowds with soups, sandwiches, salads and Southern favorites.
The bookstore features the 30 books Graham has written along with books by other family members and friends.
North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art, which started with 139 works of European and American art in 1947, has expanded to include 750 pieces. The 127,000-square-foot West building opened in 2010 and features 360 large custom-made oval skylights.
“The skylights bring in a full spectrum of natural light and let visitors see the art better,” said Natalie Braswell, the museum’s assistant marketing manager.
The museum now has a diverse collection of works, and many people come specifically to see the Rodin collection. With more than 30 works by Auguste Rodin inside and in the outside sculpture garden, the museum is the leading repository of the artist’s work in the southeastern United States.
“One of the big focuses of the museum is linking art and nature,” said Braswell. “After you have just looked at a Rodin sculpture on a pedestal, you pass through a door and there is a reflecting pool outside with another Rodin featured.”
South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum is filled with artifacts from South Carolina’s history, the largest one being the building itself.
“The building that houses the museum was built in 1894 and was one of the first totally electric textile mills in the world,” said Tut Underwood, director of public information for the museum.
That is just one of South Carolina’s many “firsts” featured at the museum. Others include an actual-size replica of the first American-built train, the Best Friend of Charleston; what is believed to be the first airplane in America built by college students, Clemson College Aeroclub in 1928; and a replica of the H.L. Hundley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship.