Adaptation and Evolution in York County's Historical Museums

Dec 17, 2020

Historic Brattonsville would normally be swimming in holiday visitors, Christmas carolers, and storytellers right about now. But even history needs to adapt and improvise sometimes.
Credit SCETV File Photo

If there's a silver lining to 2020, it's that having to adapt to a society of avatars has made businesses and organizatons a lot more creative in how they reach their audiences. That's as true for the Culture and History Museums of York County as it is for anyone.

The sites under the CHM umbrella (Historic Brattonsville, the Main Street Children's Museum, the McCelvey Center, and the Museum of York County) were used to having lots of kids playing with toy dinosaurs and lots of people getting together for exhibits and displays. Then they had to close for a pandemic and find a way to stay relevant, and not just while the pandemic raged but for when it's gone.

Like a lot of agencies, the CHM took its programs and exhibits virtual. And that ended up being a bit of a boon to the museums.

"All these programs are being recorded and documented and we’re able to go deeper into the stories – like the Vernon Grant reveal," says Marie Cheek, community relations coordinator for the CHM. "We went behind the scenes in the collections department and we show where we keep the Vernon Grant collection. That’s something behind the scenes that people don’t ordinarily see when we’re having our public events."

In case you’re unfamiliar with the name, Vernon Grant was a major business player and farmer in Rock Hill. He was also a prolific illustrator and artist whose most well-known creations were Snap! Crackle! and Pop! from the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies box.

But Grant had a special fondness for Christmas drawings, and for the past three decades, the Culture and Heritage Museums have turned one of Grant’s holiday pieces into an annual limited edition Christmas card and ornament. This year didn’t stop that tradition. in fact, it actually enhanced it.

"We went to Vernon Grant’s house, and that’s something that people don’t see," Cheek says. "His son, Chip, did a tour of his house and talked about different components of his house and stories about his life as an artist and the importance of what he has done for Rock Hill."

She says the museums are fine financially, partly because they’ an extension of the York County government. That gives the museums a good backbone from an entity that does not want to shut down the main repository of its history.

"We stewards of that [history]," Cheek says. "We’re here to take care of these things that are important to York County. If we’re not here to take care of these things, then York County’s story isn’t told."