A Century of Archival Effort
The Historical Commission of South Carolina, the predecessor of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, took charge of the state’s rich heritage of inactive public records on April 1, 1905. South Carolina had a long history of concern for its government records, rescuing them from war, hurricane, and fire, but it lagged behind its sister southern states in publishing its early records and establishing a separate state agency to care for them. Beginning with but one employee and two rooms in the State House, the agency outgrew two other sites before moving to the Archives and History Center in 1998.
North Carolina’s publication of its colonial records spurred an effort that led to South Carolina’s archival agency. Wanting a similar publication, the South Carolina Historical Society mounted a statewide petition drive that obtained legislative funding for a Public Record Commission in 1891. That commission obtained transcripts of colonial records in England and in 1894 successfully recommended the establishment of a permanent Historical Commission. The commission was charged with collecting historical records of all types but it had no staff and its collections were deposited with the Secretary of State. The commission was transformed into an archival agency by legislative act in 1905. The agency long made documentary publication one of its highest priorities.
South Carolina has one of the richest collections of colonial, state, and local government records in the nation. When the Historical Commission moved into the World War Memorial Building in 1936 it had but three staff members. The Archives Building on Senate Street, occupied in 1960 and doubled in size in 1971, and a greatly increased staff that reached 130 by 1980 allowed expanded programs and intensive work with the archival records. At its peak the department had the best research hours of any state archives. Reductions in recent years have curtailed the agency’s activities, but computer technology has allowed exciting advances in making its wealth of records available.
Alexander Samuel Salley,
South Carolina’s First State Archivist
J. Harold Easterby, who became the second director in 1949, was a College of Charleston history professor who modernized the agency’s archival and publication programs and, just before his death, obtained its first adequate building at the corner of Senate and Bull Streets. Charles E. Lee served as director from 1961 to 1987. In those years the agency greatly expanded its responsibilities and staff.
George L. Vogt, director from 1987 to 1995, obtained the funding for the Archives and History Center before leaving to become director of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Rodger E. Stroup, the current director, took office in 1997. Dr. Stroup brought an increased emphasis on programs to improve history education in the secondary schools.
Bust of Alexander Samuel Salley,
The bust was a generous centennial gift to the department by Mrs. Ann Bowen of Greenwood. It comes from the estate of her late husband Don Herd, a president of Lander College. Herd purchased the bust from Salley’s widow.
In January 1973 the State Records Center was transferred from the Division of General Services to the State Archives. Later that year the General Assembly passed the Public Records Act. This act gave the State Archives legal authority over the management of all public records and required agencies and local governments to work with the Archives in managing their records.
In 1974 the Central Microfilm Unit was transferred from the Division of General Services to State Archives control. The State Records Center moved to a newly adapted warehouse in 1976, and its capacity was doubled to nearly 100,000 cubic feet a decade later.
Records management staff provide assistance through on-site consultations; records management training sessions; storage of inactive records at the State Records Center; and microfilming, processing of microfilm, and security microfilm storage.
Record keeping has dramatically changed since the Archives initiated its records management program forty years ago. While the amount of paper records continues to grow, today many records are created and kept electronically. Just like paper records, electronic records must be properly managed to ensure that information will be available for future needs. The Archives is working with agencies and local governments to address issues associated with electronic records and develop policies and guidelines on issues such as digital imaging, managing e-mail, the care and handling of electronic records, and creating and maintaining trustworthy information systems.
Regardless of the type media on which information is recorded, the records management efforts of the Department of Archives and History are directed toward efficient records keeping in state agencies and local governments while working to ensure that permanently valuable records will be available for generations to come.
In 1967 the Department of Archives and History was designated the agency to implement the National Historic Preservation Act in South Carolina. The division created within the department to administer historic preservation programs became the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
Today the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO):
Helps communities identify and recognize their historic buildings and sites. The National Register of Historic Places creates awareness of the importance of a community’s historic properties. South Carolina Historical Markers help tell the story of historic places across the state.
Encourages the revitalization of historic downtowns and neighborhoods by helping owners meet the rehabilitation standards for state and federal historic preservation tax credits.
Protects the heritage of the state and its citizens by reviewing and commenting on the impact of state and federally assisted projects on historic properties.
Supports the development of local historic preservation programs. Communities can apply to be designated as Certified Local Governments (CLGs). The State Historic Preservation Office provides information and training to CLGs and federal grants for historic preservation projects.
Provides expertise and information on historic preservation issues to individuals and communities. The State Historic Preservation Office advises owners on the maintenance and rehabilitation of historic buildings and is a clearinghouse for technical preservation literature.
Expedites planning for government agencies and developers by providing information about the location of historic properties in the state. The State Historic Preservation Office coordinates a statewide survey of historic buildings and structures and maintains this information in a Geographic Information System (GIS) format.
Preserving and Making the Records Accessible
Items from The Collection
South Carolina Votes for George Washington, 1789
Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade