There’s nothing quite like a visit to a museum. Museums offer us the opportunity to step back in time, learn something new, or see and hear things we’ve never seen before.
If you’re a lifelong learner who loves the educational experience only a museum can offer, Greenville is a great place to live. Greenville’s thriving education and arts community includes several excellent museums open to the public year-round.
Greenville County values its history, which means visitors and residents can find small, locally run museums in almost every town. For this list, however, we’re focusing on museums within a 15-minute drive of the BJU campus. We’re including admission prices in our list, though we recommend visiting their websites for operating hours.
Sigal Music Museum
The Sigal Music Museum, formerly known as the Carolina Music Museum, houses a huge collection of musical instruments. Their collection includes instruments of educational, cultural and historical value from all over the world. While the museum features many musical instruments popular in South Carolinian and Appalachian history, you’ll also see exhibits full of music-making machines from non-Western cultures as well.
Visitors to the museum will get to see these instruments in action during certain tours, and some instruments are available for guests to try themselves in an immersive, hands-on learning experience. The Sigal Music Museum gets its name from Marlowe Sigal, an expert on historical instruments whose 700-piece collection of historic instruments found a home at the museum after his death.
This museum is part of the collection of museums at Heritage Green in downtown Greenville. The entry fees are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, college students and members of the military, $4 for students ages 6–18. Children under the age of 6 are free.
Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library
The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in downtown Greenville pays homage to one of the city’s most famous sons. Born in Pickens, South Carolina, and raised in a milltown community in Greenville, Jackson was a famous Major League Baseball player in the 1910s. He remains the record holder for rookie batting average (.408), set in the 1911 season.
A cheating scandal ended his career when he was at his athletic peak, fixing him and the other players involved as legends in baseball history. Though defamed at the time, recently uncovered evidence suggests his innocence, and Joe and his legacy have gained a new generation of dedicated fans.
The museum exists in the house he shared with his wife Katie until his death in 1951. The museum has recently added a wing with new exhibits. Admission is free.
Upcountry History Museum
The Upcountry History Museum is the centerpiece of downtown Greenville’s museum collective at Heritage Green. Since 2002, this museum has housed both permanent and rotating exhibits that showcase South Carolina’s unique history. It’s also a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, a status that promises visitors that the exhibits they see are up to the Smithsonian’s high standards.
Upcountry History’s permanent galleries feature replicas of historic architecture, including the facade of a town hall with a pillared porch, shops and shop windows along a main street, and replicas of rooms and offices inside one of Greenville’s textile mills. These exhibits explain the history of the Upstate from the 1700s frontier days through the Civil Rights Movement era and beyond. Recent visiting exhibits include a display of work by award-winning fiber artist Salley Mavor and another exhibit featuring the work by masters of American photography from 1880 to 1980.
BJU’s photographer Hal Cook was featured in Upcountry History Museum’s photography exhibit. Read more in this BJUtoday article.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for senior adults (ages 65 and up) and college students with valid ID, $8 for children ages 4 to 18. Children 3 and under are free. Saturday, Sept. 18, is the Smithsonian’s Museum Day with free admission to all affiliate venues. Visit the website to download a general admission ticket for two.
Greenville County Museum of Art
The Greenville County Museum of Art boasts several large collections of culturally and historically significant work by American and Southern artists. The museum’s vast interior and spacious galleries invite hours of educational entertainment and immersion in the visual arts. Also located on Heritage Green, GCMA exhibits older works, such as the oil paintings of John Gadsby Chapman, and work by modern artists including Georgia O’Keeffe and William Halsey.
GCMA also houses paintings by acclaimed South Carolinian artists William H. Johnson and one of the largest collections of watercolors by Andrew Wyeth. This museum hosts a vibrant rotation of traveling exhibitions as well, from collections by individual artists or collections of art from specific movements in American art history.
Admission is free for all. Note that GCMA is undergoing renovation and construction and will not fully reopen until early 2022, though a special gallery event is scheduled for October 15–17.
Military History Center of the Carolinas
Run by a dedicated volunteer corps of veterans and local military history enthusiasts, this free museum boasts an impressive collection of 20th-century American military artifacts. Much of its collection consists of donations by Greenville families or items on loan from collectors. The Military History Center has created a unique educational series of exhibits populated by authentic uniforms, vehicles (including jeeps, trucks and motorcycles) and photographs. This museum is purposefully kid-friendly as well, featuring tables full of touchable items, uniforms little guests can try on, and a jeep set up for photo ops.
This museum is free to enter, but because it is staffed by volunteers, weekday visits are by appointment only with open admission for limited hours on weekends.
Roper Mountain Science Center
No list of museums is really complete without a museum of natural history. Roper Mountain Science Center is one of Greenville’s finest educational institutions, featuring an observatory, a planetarium, a living history farm, a butterfly garden, a dinosaur adventure trail and a year-round calendar of educational programs for children of all ages.
Of the museums on our list, the Roper Mountain Science Center hosts the largest range of learning experiences and kinds of exhibits. Their observatory houses a 23-inch refractor telescope called the Great Refractor, a historic artifact constructed in 1882 and one of the largest instruments of its kind in the United States.
The Living History Farm lets guests tour an authentic log cabin, schoolhouse and blacksmith shop, while reenactors demonstrate historic methods of farming as well as tool and garment manufacturing. On the Dinosaur Trail, guests interact with life-size models of history’s favorite giant extinct reptiles, either from the ground level or from a treehouse observation deck. The Harrison Hall houses creepy crawlies of every kind, from jungle reptiles to organisms you can observe through the museum’s microscopes. And that’s just the shortlist — Roper Mountain Science Center has learning experiences tailored for every season of the year.
Admission costs vary by event. Their Summer Adventure costs $12 for adults and teens, $10 for children ages 4–12, $10 for senior citizens (age 60 & over), $10 for military veterans, with free admission for RMSC Members and children ages 3 and under. Limited events such as the Summer Planetarium Show cost $5 per adult and child. See their website for full pricing and scheduling details.
Don’t miss the rest of our Around Greenville series to see more of what our city and the area around it has to offer.