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“You can't visit St. Helena, or even pass through without a stop at Penn Center” 4 of 5 bubbles
Review of Penn Center

Penn Center
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Historic Sea Island Plantation and Lowcountry Life Tour
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: A significant African-American institution in the United States, its mission is to preserve the Sea Islands' history, culture and environment.
Level Contributor
24 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“You can't visit St. Helena, or even pass through without a stop at Penn Center”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 16, 2014

This museum helps to tell the story of slavery in the Sea Islands, and that is a big part about what makes these islands so distinctive and so unforgettable. Allow time to read the wall labels and don't miss the newspaper article contemporary account of Robert Smalls' heroic and daring civil war escapade.

Visited February 2014
2 Thank TravellingWinters
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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137 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
miller Beach Indiana
Level Contributor
17 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Very interesting, full of history”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 26, 2014

We spent only a few hours touring the school and viewing the exhibits and movie. The school is full of fascinating history, so much we didn't know. The movie is hard to understand because of the dialect, the people of the area must speak differently, it was hard to follow and difficult to understand. Unfortunately the weather was quite cold and we did not do too much walking the grounds, plus there is no signage as to what buildings are part of the school.

Visited February 2014
1 Thank sharon644
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
276 reviews
93 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 160 helpful votes
“could be so much more”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 28, 2013

This is the site of a school for children of freed slaves, built just after the Civil War and it stayed open until the 1970s. Unfortunately, all of this history is not well presented. There is a 20-minute video that emphasizes more recent times (1960s, civil rights movements, etc) but never tells how the place was set up, by who, why there, who attended, etc. It appears to have been a boarding school, but even that was not clear. The displays include some of this info but not in any coherent fashion - you have to read letters, photo captions, etc., and try to piece the story together yourself. It also prides itself on maintaining local "gullah" culture but then never explains what defines that, how it originated - for example, there are multiple references to a unique language, including photos of a bible translated into gullah language, but no way to know if this was a local dialect, or one developed by slaves, or one brought over by slaves from Africa. There is a $5 admission fee to the museum which holds the exhibits which would definitely be worth it if only the info that it contains actually told a story. There are also many outbuildings but again no info to let you know what they are or were, or if they are still being used. Frustrating.

Visited December 2013
2 Thank garybirder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Alexandria, Virginia
Level Contributor
342 reviews
169 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 342 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 21, 2013

Sadly, during my two week business trip to the area, I could only get out of work early enough one day to visit Penn Center. Even then, I did not have enough time to see the 30-minute orientation video. Penn Center closes at 4 p.m. I had time to visi the Bailey Museum then to go over next door to The Shed to have a quick browse at the gift shop. The museum prohibits photography of the exhibits. The displays provided comprehensive historic information. I wish I had arrived earlier because I suspect the orientation video would have enhanced the experience. There was a group of school children there at the same time, and I had the opportunity to watch with them a care taker feeding milk to a calf. I drove around for a bit after my visit to the museum, but what would have been nice is a map of the area with other historic sites.

Visited December 2013
1 Thank CCC_wanderlust
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Collierville, Tennessee
Level Contributor
50 reviews
26 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Could be better”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 26, 2013

The movie and museum were well done and informative, but when it came to walking around the property to see the buildings, I didn't know where to begin or actually if all the buildings I could see were a part of the Center. I wandered into the lobby of another building that looked to be offices and a lady finally came out to ask if she could help. When I asked about a map, she dug around around and found a hand drawn mimeographed map. Fortunately, it also came with an excellent description of the past and present uses of each building so I was able to walk around and peer into the windows of some. I think it would be helpful to have these, or maybe some better quality, maps offered when tickets are purchased.

Visited October 2013
3 Thank n8urgrl2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Michael C, Penn Center at Penn Center, responded to this review, October 28, 2013
Greetings! I am Michael A. Campi, the new Executive Director here at Penn Center. I want to express my profound gratitude for your candid (on-target!) appraisal of your recent visit. Your objective observations are very valuable to us, as we embark on making demonstrative changes to the "Penn Center Experience."

I invite you to visit our website: www.penncenter.com for updates and alerts about upcoming exhibits, program offerings and enhancements, and special events.

I thank you again for your honest feedback. Please know you have been heard, and we are actively working to improve the experience of our guests.

My email is mcampi@penncenter.com. I am at your disposal if I may be of any service whatsoever.

Sincerely yours,

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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