Walterboro, SC

The Post and Courier
Thursday, February 24, 2005
by: Andy Paras

Walterboro museum recalls “painful chapter”

Danny Drain long has been fascinated by what man is capable of. Owner and curator of the Slave Relic Museum in Walterboro, Drain wonders what drove a man to enslave another and marvels at how an enslaved people’s spirit escaped restraints.

His fascination is reflected in the exhibits and artifacts that are displayed throughout the first floor of the antebellum home he shares with his wife, Laura.

Drain keeps a branding iron and whip in the same display case as a handmade doll. On the wall in one room, he has a bill of sale for a slave who ran away, and in another room, there is a quilt that possible is stitched with a code signaling when to escape.

“I try to show both views of how people felt back then,” Drain said. “I want to show people’s mind-set of why they would enslave somebody else.”

Drain, an antiques dealer from New York, collected slave artifacts and books for 12 years before he moved to the Carn Street home to be closer to family and share with the world a piece of American history.

“It’s an important reminder because it tells you about American history,” Drain said. “It’s not just African history, it’s American history. It’s a painful chapter.”

School kids from as far away as Charleston have visited the museum, tour buses have come from Interstate 95 and people from other countries have come after reading about it on the Internet.

The Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic have included pieces from the museum in published magazine articles.

His collection, more than 2,000 pieces, is too vast for the home, so every five or six months, he puts up a new display. One of the permanent displays is a back room that is made to look like a slave’s cabin. It has a bed and a cradle, both from the 1820’s.

The case with the branding iron and whip is part of the exhibit to honor the Underground Railroad and Black History Month. He said he hopes to put up a new display by May.

Drain has long-tern plans that extend beyond that. Within two years, he hopes to put up a barn-like structure in his back yard that will house a cultural center and exhibit hall. He also envisions re-enactors demonstrating slave culture.

“We want to have an actual living history museum here,” he said.

In the meantime, the museum will remain open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and 10 am to 3 pm Saturdays.