I have been meaning to go to the Upcountry Museum on Greenville SC,s Heritage Green for some time now, and the opportunity presented itself when a former student, now in the national tour of Jersey Boys, came to Greenville last week. We both very much enjoyed the visit. Set in a lovely building with a belltower that tolls each quarter hour, the museum is two floors that will take you from the earliest days of the upcountry (to distinguish the area from the low country of the state, closer to the coast) in the piedmont area of South Carolina, near the mountains of western North Carolina) to the present. The museum is administered by nearby Furman University and is a well laid-out, closely researched and nicely presented place. Begin on the first floor, which shows the era when the Cherokees lived on the land, to the 1790s when whites settled the area, thru the 1850s and 60s when cotton was king and slaves were forced to pick it. There are videos, multimedia shows, and a small theatre which features at designated times a 15 minute film on the area (well worth watching either before or after you have strolled through the museum). Head up the impressive double staircase to the second floor, and get insight into the turbulent Reconstruction years and afterwards into the era through much of the 20th century when the city's textile economy was supported through mill towns - some of the mills still stand - and from that to the days of the Civil Rights movement and down to the present, when companies such as BMW and Michelin among others transformed the city into the sophisticated place it is today.
The museum's collection, including facades of hotels and shop, is explained simply and as a result is very kid-friendly, and there's a small visitor's lounge where you can get a taste of Pepsi history (literally) and a well set up museum shop.
For those of you who are in the area for more than a short period of time there are frequent lunchtime lectures on topics of local interest but also on such subjects as the effects of globalization. The admission fee of $5 is well worth it for anyone remotely interested in local history.
For those of you less interested in that topic, Heritage Green also houses the main branch of the public library, a state of the art Children's Museum, and an art museum that features a permanent collection including several Andrew Wyeths, as well as temporary exhibits. Any trip to Greenville should include at least the Green, and I'd urge the Upcountry Museum as part of the visit.
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