A traveling exhibit entitled “The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls” will open at the Avery Research Center in Charleston on Thursday, August 7th, and will travel to a variety of museums and universities following that showing. Helen Boulware Moore, PhD, Smalls’ great granddaughter, discusses her role as curator:
    "In my I am partnering with Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, Executive Director of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC, to create a Robert Smalls traveling exhibit for display in museums, at universities, and at historical sites around the country.  As the great granddaughter of Congressman Robert Smalls, I have had the good fortune to inherit a large number of items related to Robert Smalls that are worthy of display in major U.S. institutions. We have hired a museum designer to help us design and stage the exhibit.”
    The exhibit will include furniture from the “big house” where Robert Smalls and his mother Lydia, were enslaved; scaled replicas of the CSS Planter and the USS Keokuk, the two ships that Robert Smalls piloted during the Civil War; Robert’s musket; letters written to dignitaries of his time; the desk from his office at the Collector of Customs at the Port of Beaufort, SC; pictures of  Robert, his house, his immediate family and descendants through the generations; copies of the SC legislation that created the first public schools in South Carolina, the SC Public Accommodations Act and the US legislation that created Parris Island Marine Base, all submitted by Congressman Smalls during his public life in the SC Legislature and the US Congress. The Robert Smalls walking cane; newspaper articles dating back to 1862 when Robert commandeered the Planter to freedom; pictures on a 32” digital picture frame of the LSV-8, the “MG Robert Smalls,” the largest army transport ship of its kind which was commissioned into active duty in his name in Baltimore, MD, on September 15, 2007; books and other memorabilia.
    Says Moore, “We intend to create a multimedia exhibit and have been granted the rights to part IV of the PBS series, Slavery and the Making of America, which features the life of Congressman Robert Smalls, to be shown concurrently with the exhibit in a similar fashion to the video in The Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit shown some years ago at the Museum of Fine Art.”
     Additionally, the organizers have purchased the rights to a collage by internationally renown artist, James Denmark, which represents the life and times of Robert Smalls, and will be used on gift shop memorabilia during the exhibit duration. Space and interest by the hosting institutions will dictate which of these ancillary materials will be used.                      
    Robert Smalls’ life story is an important one that needs to be told. The exhibit opens August 7th at the Avery Research Center, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, SC, where a panel of historians, sociologists and Robert Smalls descendants will be enrich the ceremonies. The Exhibit will run through September 2008 and then travel to universities and museums across the country, including the University of South Carolina Columbia and The Arsenal Museum in Beaufort. Look for more information about the Beaufort exhibit in future issues of Lowcountry Weekly.