Of more than 20,000 museums in the United States, only 200 are affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution. The Coastal Discovery Museum recently was honored as one of them.
It became official Nov. 18 when the Smithsonian’s Harold Closter presented a framed certificate of affiliation to museum president and CEO Rex Garniewicz and board chairman Fred Manske at Coligny Theatre in a special ceremony.
“We made the absolute right decision in deciding to partner with the Coastal Discovery Museum and make it one of our newest affiliates,” said Closter, director of Smithsonian affiliations in Washington, D.C. “This museum is in a very special distinguished status.”
He cited staff professionalism, the 68-acres Honey Horn property that dates back to 1859, the museum’s collection and exhibits, and its educational and environmental programs, especially its extensive wetlands research.
“This partnership brings the Smithsonian and all its breadth and scope to our community and creates lasting experiences that broadens perspective on science, history, culture and arts,” said Garniewicz, who joined the museum in the summer of 2014.
He said he contacted the Washington office a year ago about becoming an affiliate, something he also had done in San Diego while heading its Museum of Man before moving here.
Closter said he hopes to bring Smithsonian exhibits and speakers to the Lowcountry, new kinds of education programs, and common joint research.
“We have things that relate directly to the people and culture of this area,” Closter said. “We have the largest folk music recording collection in the world, and a lot of it includes original recordings of the Gullah people.”
Closter said the Smithsonian wants to share its vast collection of 137 million artifacts, only 1 percent of which is on display in its 19 museums.
“We realized we could do a better job sharing our collections with the American public if we had stronger partnerships with other museums reaching people in their own communities,” said Closter, explaining the impetus of the program since its founding in 1996 that now stretches into 45 states.
“We think using local stories, especially in collaboration with the Smithsonian, can make a huge difference here and across the United States to help protect and preserve our valuable resources,” Garniewicz said.
“There’s a real opportunity for real collaboration,” Garniewicz said. “It’s a give and take. It’s not a one-way street.”
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Manske said.
Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer living in Bluffton.