Museum transforming itself

  • Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leslie Cantu/Journal Scene - Chris Ohm, curator of the Summerville Dorchester Museum, indicates some of the interior work to be completed on the garden house in the museum’s courtyard. -

Three projects are underway at the Summerville Dorchester Museum to upgrade the facilities and increase offerings.
Workers this week are cutting a doorway into a wall separating the front portion of the museum from the old pump room, which for years has been used for storage.
With help from Leadership Dorchester, the old pump room will become an exhibit room featuring Summerville’s heritage as the birthplace of sweet tea. 
Leadership Dorchester has adopted the Sweet Tea Trail as its project this year, said member Tiffany Norton.
For the education portion of the project, the group is working with the museum to enhance its facilities.
Exhibits in the pump room could include Dr. Charles Shepard’s diary and a tin, never opened, of his tea, said Norton and Chris Ohm, the museum’s curator and director.
Shepard founded the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville. Though the plantation was neglected after his death in 1915, in 1963 some of his tea plants were transplanted to the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island.
Norton said Leadership Dorchester hopes to create a short video that visitors could watch to learn more about Summerville’s connections to sweet tea.
Besides exhibits, the old pump room could be rented out, generating income for the museum, Norton said.
The group is also helping the museum fix up its courtyard.
Much has been done with the courtyard in the last few years – most noticeably the exterior renovations of the Garden House – but Leadership Dorchester plans to plant flowers and shrubs associated with Summerville and install brick pavers along the roughed-out pathway.
To raise funds to pay for the renovations, the group will sell sponsorships of the pavers.
They’re also working on a letter to Town Council, hoping to get permission to paint the sweet tea trail logo on the water cistern behind the museum.
The hulking gray edifice, along with the pump room and several structures within the courtyard, are remnants of the time the building served as the town’s water department.
Ohm’s long-term plans for the museum include using the cistern as additional exhibit space and installing outdoor sculptures within the courtyard.
In the short term, Leadership Dorchester’s projects should be complete by October.
The final project underway is the interior renovation of the Garden House. Ohm said the floor should be laid next week.
Workers will need to reinstall walls as well as add a few touches to bring it up to modern standards – a fire alarm, a security system and railings for the stairs.

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