The Press and Standard Friday, February 20, 2004 by Heather Stoner
“Slave relics museum is drawing card in Colleton”
A Slave Relics Museum in downtown Walterboro is connecting Colleton’s African American heritage and boosting the county’s tourism industry.
Already, this powerful museum has attracted the Smithsonian Institute, National Geographic, out-of-state tour groups and even the popular Antique Road Show on PBS.
But this museum is more than an attraction. Its authentic artifacts and slavery replicas
represent a large and emotional piece of the nation’s history. More so, the museum’s exhibits reflect Lowcountry lifestyles.
Rusted wrought iron slave collars tell stories of slave days in the South, as wooden baby cradles sit still in front of an old fireplace. Scenes like these impact visitors in nearly every room of the museum.
Museum owner Danny Drain, a full-time employee of the SC Department of Transportation, used his interest in slavery to begin creating the museum. He started collecting his authentic artifacts about 10 years ago, while he was still living in New York.
For the last decade, Drain has traveled across the country collecting these rare and beautiful pieces.
“The greyhound bus system has been a good friend to me,”he said. “It has been my ticket in collecting and buying them from African American slavery descendants and from Civil War dealers.”
Drain and his family moved back to Walterboro several years ago for the purpose of displaying his artifacts in a Lowcountry setting. He also wanted to be close to his relatives living in Walterboro.
The museum is located in the bottom floor of an old Walterboro house, the second floor of which serves as his family’s home.
In its short history, the museum has been placed in local and national spotlights, giving insight into how the days of slavery have so greatly impacted today’s black culture.
“The most important thing about the museum is to educate the people,” Drain said. “You can’t truly understand the problems today without looking to the past.
“You have to look back to heal and process today’s feelings and perspectives.”
Drain’s original slavery patchwork quilts are going to be featured in the Smithsonian Institute’s traveling exhibit, “Captive Passage.”
National Geographic has also contacted Drain about featuring parts of his relics collection in an upcoming book, and Drain’s quilts will be featured this spring on the Antiques Road Show, a popular television show that gives the history and value of different antiques.
Back on the home front, Drain’s museum is enabling the Walterboro-Collecton Chamber of Commerce to teach history lessons to tourists visiting the Lowcountry.
With Walterboro’s Slave Relics Museum and the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial, Palmetto State tourists no longer need to drive to Charleston to get a full variety of Lowcountry history, said David Smalls, director of the Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve had a large number of people call about African American heritage places,and we send them a packet highlighted our two places, in addition to other Colleton County tourism information,” Smalls said.
Last year, about 30 school groups from North Carolina and Georgia visited the museum, in addition to church groups and individual visitors, Drain said.
As the number of visitors continually increase, Drain is looking to expand his museum to accommodate the public. He is also working with the Collection County Museum and the SC Artisans Center to help promote tourism in the county.
And, as word of the museum spreads, Smalls hopes other history/heritage centers will open to reflect the county’s large African American and Native American influences.
Already, though, Smalls said the chamber is using this museum in trying to “heavily promote” the African American cultures of Colleton County.
“These (Slave Relics Museum and Tuskegee Airmen Memorial) are really good examples of African American heritage, but we still need more public attractions geared to the different cultures in Colleton County,” Smalls said. “Our attractions aren’t packaged well for the public. We need centers that combines the native culture with African American churches/cemeteries and architecture,” he said.
The two-story Slaves Relics Museum is located on Carn Street, directly across from the Walterboro Police Department. Admission is free and open to the public on Saturday’s only.
Donations are accepted to help preserve the collections, Drain said.