Rice Museum Celebrates 50th

Georgetown’s iconic museum has low-key but important celebration for its 50th anniversary

It’s not what Jim Fitch had in mind for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Rice Museum, an icon of historic Georgetown, but, like so many things around the world, best-laid plans have been turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rice Museum first opened 50 years ago — on May 1, 1970, as part of the South Carolina Tri-centennial event, and there had been big anniversary plans in the works to highlight the occasion.

“We were supposed to be having a major symposium where we were going to bring local, national and international people here to talk about our culture and coastal themes,” Fitch said Friday, May 1, 2020, the museum’s 50th anniversary, and nearly a month after closing due to the virus.

Still, Fitch, who has served as the museum’s director for 44 years, noted that the day was special, after all. “Today,” he said, “is a celebration and remembrance for our anniversary and even though it is not what we thought it would be, we think it is important to open today.”  

To mark the anniversary, the museum held a special event at its Prevost Gallery and Museum Shop featuring local artist Vida Miller in an art exhibit titled “The Marsh and More.” Beyond the anniversary day’s special event, people can now view the exhibit Tuesday through Saturday from noon until 4 p.m., which are abbreviated hours from the museum’s normal operating hours. There will be an additional “Meet the Artist” event on Saturday, May 9, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Located in the Old Market Building behind the iconic clock tower and in the adjacent Kaminski Hardware Building, the Rice Museum exhibits a permanent collection of dioramas, maps, paintings, artifacts and other displays that tell the history of rice cultivation in Georgetown County. The Kaminski Hardware Building houses The Rice Museum’s Maritime Museum Gallery, The Rice Museum Gift Shop and the Prevost Art Gallery.

This is one of Vida Miller’s pieces in her exhibit titled “The Marsh and More.” (Photo courtesy of Vida Miller)

Miller, who has exhibited her artwork in the Prevost Gallery many times over the last 30 years, said this exhibit has turned out to be a special one. She said her paintings, comprised of pastels depicting marsh scenes from different views, were inspired by Lynn Asselta, a Florida watercolor artist who Miller met in Fort Mill. 

“I fell in love with the medium, and when Jim asked me about doing an exhibit in April, I wanted to paint pastels,” Miller said. “I am delighted to be part of the museum’s 50th anniversary because the museum and these two buildings represent so much of Georgetown’s history.”

Another of Miller’s paintings of a marsh scene. (Photo courtesy of VIda MIller)

The Rice Museum is one of five museums located in Georgetown’s historic district. The other museums are the Kaminski House Museum, the Georgetown County Museum, the Gullah Museum and the South Carolina Maritime Museum.

Fitch said he’s excited to commemorate the significant milestone for The Rice Museum. He said he does regret that the staff had to postpone other events related to the anniversary due to the pandemic, but he talked proudly of his more than four decades with the museum and the accomplishments that have happened there.

Charlotte Kaminski Prevost was the force behind starting a museum dedicated to rice in the Clock Tower building, Fitch said, and Dennis Lawson was the museum’s first director. Fitch said he’s proud to have served as director as the museum expanded into all three floors of the Kaminski Hardware Building.

“Having the opportunity to guide the museum through its various phases and expand it more than five times its original size, into all three floors of the Kaminski Hardware Building, has been a dream come true for me,” he said.

The Rice Museum began in the Old Market Building behind the iconic Clock Tower in Georgetown. (Photo by Mark A. Stevens, Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce)

Due to ongoing concerns about the virus, face masks are required for all visitors to the gallery and no more than 10 people can be accommodated inside at any one time, due to suggested restrictions. Social distancing will be in effect, as well. At this time, only credit cards and checks will be accepted in the Museum Shop. 

For more information about the exhibit and the museum, visit www.ricemuseum.org or call 843-546-7423. The Rice Museum is located at 633 Front St. in historic Georgetown.

– By Clayton Stairs, tourism manager, Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce