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Record numbers enjoying Camden Archives and Museum

Posted: August 30, 2013 8:06 a.m.
Updated: August 30, 2013 8:05 a.m.

A record number of visitors walked through the doors of the Camden Archives and Museum during the city of Camden’s 2012-13 fiscal year. During a Camden City Council work session Thursday afternoon, Archives Director Katherine Richardson said in Fiscal Year 2013, 7,401 people visited the archives, an increase of more than 1,500 visitors from 2011-12.

Richardson said the archives also created two new positions: a curator of collections and a cataloguing and reference archivist.

“We will continue to improve and professionalize our visitor services as our audience increases,” Richardson said.

She also reported on the archives and museum’s exhibits, including “A Century of Caring: KershawHealth 1913-2013,” which closes Saturday. The museum also features the Ross E. Beard Collection, an ongoing exhibit.

Beginning September 9 and running through Jan. 11, 2014, the archives will feature “Camden in the Civil War: The Home Front,” an exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The exhibit will highlight the experience of people who lived in Camden during the Civil War through the use of documents produced from 1861-1865. The archives will use letters from the Villepigue Collections to explore Confederate civilian life and the Kirkland-Truesdel Collection “to explore thoughts and emotions of the soldiers in the fields….” The archives will have an 1865 city council record on display and items concerning the Soldier’s Rest, Ladies’ Benevolent Associations and Harriet Dubose Kershaw Lang.

Capt. C.C. Haile’s sword and musket, Col. Richard I. Manning’s uniform and Kirkland Ranger’s regimental flag will also be displayed.

Starting Jan. 20, 2014, the archives will feature “Robert Mills’ South Carolina.” July through December 2014, the archives will celebrate “Winter in Camden: The Hotel Era, 1884-1945.” Finally, Richardson said that in 2015, the archives will celebrate the centennial of the Carnegie Library in Camden which makes up the archives portion of the building.

Richardson said the changing exhibit schedule has been popular and the archives is currently working 18 months in advance. They are also working with the Friends of the Archives and Museum to construct new double-sided exhibit cases for the middle of the exhibit gallery. Richardson said the archives has also moved materials to acid-free storage and is making sure all of its materials are correctly entered into a database. Archives staff is relabeling and purchasing books and “isolating hazardous or illegal materials,” Richardson said. Some of the materials include DuPont orlon chemical pellets, live cannon balls and negatives on nitrate film.

Richardson said the staff recently found an 1838, second edition, Robert Mills Atlas of the State of South Carolina. The atlas is worth $25,000 to $50,000. She said the archives is also taking the step of seeking national museum accreditation. The archives recently received a S.C. Federation of Museums Award of Achievement for 2012’s Larry Doby exhibit and it is also working on oral and videography projects for an African-American tour of Camden and the Ross Beard Collection. In March 2014, the archives will host the S.C. Federations of Museums annual meeting.

City Manager Mel Pearson said Richardson is professional and has a passion for what she does. Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford said hiring Richardson was a great move for the archives.

Also Tuesday, a sewer pump station replacement council originally budgeted at $700,000 may cost an additional $164,479 if council agrees to change the location of the pump. The $700,000 is to be used to replace a an existing pump station at Bull and Cooper streets. The new station is set about 400 feet from the existing location.

Pearson said Historic Camden’s Joanna Craig opposed the site and asked that the new site be on the “south end” of Historic Camden across from a SCANA gas substation on Broad Street. The new pump location would require an additional 1,800 feet of sewer forcemain.

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford asked where the money would come from to pay for the difference. Pearson said the city may be able to find the money in its utility fund.

“It won’t be easy,” he said, added that the city needs to take the next step.

The extra funds may be part of a bond issue in December. Pearson said the city can refinance bonds for interest rate savings. The city will bid out the proposed additional work and bring the matter back before council at a later date. Pearson said city staff also likes Craig’s proposed location, which would assist Historic Camden’s effort to apply for national park status.

In other business during Tuesday afternoon’s work session:

• Pearson said the city will work to pave the roads around the CSX railroad station off West DeKalb Street. Pearson said it is the worst pavement in the city. The city will pave and install five decorative lights in the area. The “middle driveway” trees will be pruned to accommodate construction, excavation and repainting. The city is still negotiating with CSX, which owns the parking lot and building, to perform repairs on the land it owns.

• Council learned Camden recently received a $10,086 S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism advertising grant to help promote the Beard Collection at the archives. The grant requires the city to match the funds, for a total advertising budget of $20,172, not including graphic design fees, according to Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther. The city will begin advertising the collection in February 2012. Magazine advertisements will total between $8,000 and $9,600; online advertising could cost up to $2,200; billboards will come to about $8,300. Some $4,800 would need to be taken from other sources in order to pay for billboard installation and $45 per hour would be the relative amount for design fees. The city expects to have a little more than $100 left over from the grant.

• Pearson reported that the city started its United Way campaign this month. In 2012, the city raised $12,863 last year with approximately half of all employees participating. The city hopes to surpass last year’s contributions.

Council also met for its regular meeting Tuesday night. During the meeting, council voted on appointments and reappointments to the Camden’s planning commission, board of construction appeals and historic landmarks commission.

Council unanimously reappointed Charles Wood to the planning commission, but deadlocked on a second appointment over candidates Peggy Ogburn and Robert Burch III. With Councilman Willard Polk absent, Drakeford and Councilman Walter Long voted for Burch, while Mayor Tony Scully and Councilwoman Laurie Parks voted for Ogburn. Council will vote again on the remaining planning commission seat at a future meeting.

Council unanimously reappointed James Witowski and Richard Waldrich to the board of zoning appeals, and Norma Young and Ben Schreiner to the historic landmarks commission.

Pearson said the city has placed ads for additional vacant seats, but have not had any applicants. Drakeford thanked city staff for trying to stay current, as seats have expired in the past without being filled. Long said he was glad there was a willingness to serve.

In other regular meeting business, council unanimously:

• approved final General District zoning for a nearly 17-acre property on West DeKalb Street that may be turned into a shopping center;

• approved a resolution authorizing the consumption of beer and wine during this October’s Carolina Downhome Blues Festival;

 • awarded a bid to TD Equipment Finance Inc. for a tax-free capital lease purchase of four police units, two pickup trucks and one used rear load sanitation truck;

• approved a resolution authorizing the financing terms for the lease purchases through TD Equipment Finance; and

• awarded a bid to Conder Construction for $220,000 for improvements to Arthur and Haigler lanes and a parking lot.

During the meeting’s public forum, Katherine Brown nominated former Mayor Jeffrey Graham for the Leader’s Legacy Recognition Program. Brown nominated Graham with sponsored funding of $1,150.

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