Beaufort History Museum opens Santa Elena exhibit

Product is a collaboration with Hilton Head Island’s Coastal Discovery Museum 

From staff reports 

An exhibition on Santa Elena, the earliest European settlement in what is now Beaufort County, opened to the public last week at the Beaufort History Museum. Although not permanent, Bill Skipper, the Museum’s Board Secretary, says that it will be there for a while, and that the Board hopes there will be an eventual long-term placement. 

First occupied by the French with the establishment of Charlesfort in 1562 and later by the Spanish with the settlement called Santa Elena in 1566. Although now a buried archaeological site, the location on Parris Island was once home to the first European capital in North America. 

Bill Skipper the Beaufort History Museum’s Board of Directors works alongside Rex Garniewicz and Elizabeth Greenberg from the Coastal Discovery Museum to get all the panels installed in the new Santa Elena exhibit. Photo courtesy of the Beaufort History Museum.

The museum’s current Santa Elena Exhibit was created by the Santa Elena History Center, which was housed in the historic courthouse building on Beaufort’s Bay Street before it closed in 2020. The Coastal Discovery Museum acquired all of the content from the Santa Elena History Center and is working on building a new museum on Hilton Head Island to tell this fascinating story. Until that opens, the Beaufort History Museum is the only place to learn about this important story. 

According to the Coastal Discovery Museum President, Rex Garniewicz, “This collaboration between the Beaufort History Museum and Coastal Discovery is important to help tell this story of the founding of our Country. Many people don’t know the significance of this place, and how much happened right here in Beaufort County. We are pleased that the Beaufort History Museum is helping tell this story as we work to finish building our new museum on Hilton Head. We also hope this collaboration continues and that we can both work together to continue to tell this story to both local residents and visitors. 

The exhibit is open to the public in the old Arsenal Building at 713 Craven Street in Beaufort during the Beaufort History Museum’s regular hours, usually Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., depending on the day. 

For more information about the Santa Elena Exhibition contact Elizabeth Greenberg at egreenberg@coastaldiscovery.org. For more information about the Beaufort History Museum, contact Bill Skipper at bill.skipper@yahoo.com. 

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