Living history museums offer three-dimensional views into an era. They feature period buildings, artifacts, demonstrations and hands-on activities to display life from that timeframe.
Liberty County is home to three living history museums: The Midway Museum, Geechee Kunda and Seabrook Village.
The first living history museum was established in 1891 in Sweden. In the 1930s, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford introduced living museums to the United States. Using their wealth and prestige, the duo located, preserved and reconstructed important buildings and artifacts in Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village in Michigan. These museums were used to depict the lifestyle of the upper rung of society and commonly left out any mention of average townspeople.
After World War II, curators focused on farms as a way to preserve the traditional means of growing crops and the lifestyle of rural America. The agricultural industry was advancing rapidly, and it was believed those methods would be forgotten. Plus, it was a way to promote rural living.
During the 1960s and 70s, the focus of living history shifted once more. Museums began emphasizing the average person — farmers, merchants, servants and slaves.
As museums became more relatable, the people visiting became more enthralled. Today’s living history museums feature many special activities for the public and, because they are entertaining, draw in more visitors than just a display.
The three museums in Liberty County have numerous community events. Throughout the year, the Midway Museum has several colonial teas, which feature traditional treats. Geechee Kunda has three large annual festivals that celebrate the Gullah Geechee culture.
Seabrook Village is unique because it portrays a late-19th-century community. The site includes a tenant house, school, church and sorghum mill. Seabrook Village depicts rural African-American life between 1865 and 1930.
According to the County Level Economic Impact report released by the state in 2010, tourism, including museums, generated 550 jobs and generated $86.66 million in direct tourist spending in Liberty County. On an average day in Liberty County, tourists spent $237,424 on tourism-related expenses.
As you plan your next free day, consider visiting the living museums of Liberty County. If you are a native, plan to do the same and support our local economy!
Floyd is a program assistant with the Liberty County Convention and Visitors Bureau.