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SC State Museum Expansion Underway, Revs Up "Stellar" Future
3/28/2013 11:07:10 AM

Photo by Tut Underwood/courtesy S.C. State Museum

Columbia, S.C. --- The bulldozers and excavators digging and shoving mounds of dirt and gravel around the east side of the South Carolina State Museum are a sure sign that something is happening.  Something good.  No, something great.  No, make that spectacular.

“Let’s call it ‘stellar,’ because the stars will be the only limit to our new expansion, Windows to New Worlds, that is under construction to bring to South Carolina a unique-in-the-nation combination of fun, educational and recreational facilities,” said Director of Education Tom Falvey.

The changes will add a state-of-the-art observatory, a 55-foot digital dome planetarium and theater, and the state’s largest 4D theater to what is already the largest, most comprehensive museum in the Southeast.  

What these tremendous improvements will make possible include the planetarium’s views of the universe - from sunspots during the day and stars, planets, the moon and eclipses during the night (and sometimes day) - for individuals and groups, to spectacular shows ranging from the micro-world of sub-atomic particles to galaxies light years across the cosmos.  Added to that will be dazzling laser-light and sound experiences and, in the 4D theater, 3D films augmented with water and wind, smells, bumps and other experiences to bring the films’ subjects alive.

One big change is noticeable right now, Falvey says, and that is the alternate entrance being used while the building’s front entrance is undergoing a facelift.  “The museum’s large, metal ‘space frame’ entrance will give way to a new entrance that will lead museum guests from all over the Palmetto State and beyond under a giant, four-story tripod supporting the observatory’s colossal Alvan Clark telescope and into a much wider, grander entrance and lobby as just the introduction to this magnificent new facility.”

While the construction of this beautiful entryway is ongoing, large “pardon our progress”- type signs will temporarily re-direct guests to the west (Columbia Canal) side of the building to park in a two-story deck and enter the museum through the alternate entrance at the west side of the building’s atrium.  

This new entrance will introduce guests to other changes – all temporary while the new facilities are being built – that include a new admissions area, membership desk and temporarily relocated Cotton Mill Exchange, the museum store.   In addition, the Crescent Café, the museum’s unique eatery, will temporarily close, and re-open when the Windows project opens, which is projected for April 2014.

“We want to stress that the museum will be open the entire time the building is going on,” said Falvey.  “While the new parking and entry situation may be a little different, the end result will be absolutely amazing.  So we ask for and appreciate a bit of patience from our guests, because the wait will be way more than worth it.”

Falvey is quick to point out that new exhibits and programs will continue to open at the museum during construction.  “Not only will our terrific blockbuster exhibit Secrets of the Mayacontinue to thrill visitors into the month of June, but we have an intriguing art exhibit, Between the Springmaid Sheets, opening in April on our fourth floor while construction temporarily alters our first-floor Lipscomb Art Gallery, plus a summer full of fun camps and programs for kids, and our extremely popular signature events such as the Museum Road Show, the Southeastern Toy Soldier Show and more.  Hard hats tours will be offered, too, as the building proceeds.

“So there are plenty of reasons to come to the State Museum this year, not only to enjoy the changing shows and weekend events, but to check out the progress on the construction and visualize the amazing possibilities that will be reality in a few short months when Windows to New Worlds opens its new worlds to all South Carolinians and their visitors.”

Follow the progress of Windows to New Worlds on the museum’s Web site,

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