If you’re twee, you love all things retro, but that doesn’t mean you know your history. Heck, judging by today’s recent controversy, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people don’t. So head on down to your nearest museum or historical site and brush up on Lowcountry lore.
Charles Towne Landing
This historic preserve is on the site of the original European settlement in South Carolina, circa 1670, and as such it offers plenty for those with even a passing interest in history. Walk the History Trail (or take a bike — you can rent ’em for $5 per hour), tour the museum, view active archaeological digs, and visit the Animal Forest to see animals the settlers would have encountered after landing in their new home.
One of the Charleston Museum’s recent exhibits was Fashion in Fiction, a literary heroine-themed exhibit of women’s dresses throughout the past couple of centuries, with each dress paired with an iconic fictional woman. Elizabeth Bennett, Mary Poppins, and Cathy Earnshaw were all represented. This is to say that while the museum does have an impressive permanent collection of historic arms, artifacts, and other Charleston-related items, that’s far from all that you’ll find there. The Charleston Museum also has outstanding kids’ programs, so check their calendar if you need to occupy your little ones this summer.
If it’s military history you’re into, you’ve got to head across the Ravenel Bridge to check out Patriots Point. Aside from its major attraction, the World War II-era submarine the USS Yorktown, Patriots Point also boasts a hangar filled with military aircraft, a Vietnam War exhibit, and a Cold War memorial.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
If you’ve driven on East Bay Street, you’ve probably noticed the Old Exchange building because of the docents dressed in period clothing that stand by the door, greeting visitors and passersby alike. Once inside this historic building, these enthusiastic guides will lead you through Charleston’s colonial history, from pirates to the Revolutionary War. And by “provost dungeon,” they do mean dungeon — despite being well-lit, it’s still a little creepy.
Old Slave Mart Museum
Until the International African American Museum is complete, which won’t be for several years, the Old Slave Mart Museum is the most direct way to interact with Charleston’s shameful history with the slave trade. The building was a slave auction gallery and is thought to be the only one of its kind still standing in the U.S. Be prepared for some very intense feelings as you walk through — it’s a sobering, saddening, but important experience.