Southern History Museum welcomes community, diversifies collection

Southern History Museum welcomes community, diversifies collection
A quarter-scale replica of a 19th century submarine will be on display at the Museum of Southern History June 16.

History has no end. For Evelyn Wright, a volunteer at the Museum of Southern History, that truth was her motivation to expand the focus and the displays to attract a new generation of interest.

“There’s more to Southern history than a four-year period in the 1800s,” said Wright, who is working on a master’s degree in career and technical education. Part of her studies include a project focused on raising funds for an organization that isn’t well received, so Wright set about revamping the museum and got an assist from Hurricane Irma.

“The roof was peeled off like a tin can; we had to remove carpeting and padding, grind down the concrete flooring, redo all the walls and display cases,” she said. “We lost a couple thousand books and some other memorabilia.”

The damage resulted in an opportunity to expand and reconfigure the museum, adding historical displays from the time when the Timucuan and other Indian tribes lived in the area, the American Revolution, the Civil War (or, The War Between the States), both World Wars and up through to Operation Enduring Freedom. Wright is also in discussion with Naval Air Station Jacksonville to get items from more recent conflicts for display.

“The museum is an asset often overlooked in Jacksonville,” said Ben Willingham, a board member and tour guide.

To help fund the expansion, the Museum of Southern History will hold an exhibit of a replica of the CSS Hunley submarine Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4304 Herschel St.

Five years ago, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp restored the Hunley replica originally built in 2010 by Middleburg resident Ron Parks, who passed away May 5, 2018. The quarter-scale model depicts the first submarine to sink a ship in battle during the Civil War.

The original Hunley was built by Horace Hunley to fight the Union blockade of Charleston’s harbor in 1863. The crew hand-cranked a propeller to power the 40-foot-long craft, which had only a candle and a compass to guide them. After the Feb. 17, 1864 attack on the USS Housatonic, the Hunley also sank, along with eight crewmen.

In addition to the Hunley exhibit on display June 16, the museum will raise funds through a book sale, bake sale and barbecue to finance an exhibit expansion and renovation due to hurricane damage. Donations are eligible for tax write-offs.

The museum is typically open Tuesdays through Saturdays, beginning at 10 a.m. with closing times varying.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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