Living historians to bring First World War to life at Relic Room

COLUMBIA, S.C. – As the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum brings its commemoration of the First World War to a close, a special Saturday program will celebrate Columbia’s particular contribution to winning the fight “Over There.”

For the past year, the museum’s Malvina Gist Gallery has been dedicated to an exhibit called “A Century Past: The 30th Division on the Western Front, 1918.” Using artifacts from the Relic Room’s collections and loans from individuals and other institutions, the exhibition tells the story of the division from its formation in South Carolina through combat against veteran German forces on the Western Front along the French and Belgium borders.

That exhibit closes on Sept. 30. A few days earlier – on Saturday, Sept. 21 – living historians will bring the period to life. The special program, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will feature re-enactors in uniform, and table displays of additional uniforms and equipment from the time and place.

There are also two presentations in the museum’s Education Room during the day:

• 11:00 a.m. – Jay Callaham of Greensboro, N.C., will speak on the weapons and equipment of the 30th Infantry Division, highlighting the challenges the soldiers faced when they had to discard American weapons and equipment they had trained on and learn to use their British equivalents in combat.
• 2:00 p.m. – Historian Jim Legg, who has specialized in studying the 30th, will talk about the division’s experience in the war from the time it was formed of men from South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee to its breakthrough on the Hindenburg Line in September 2018.

And while many such programs feature military artifacts, one of the living historians from Military Timeline Impressions will highlight the special role civilians played in the war effort here in the Midlands.

“I will be enacting a contractor who built Camp Jackson,” says Bruce Cotner of MTI. He will come prepared to talk about Columbia’s extraordinary foresight in positioning itself as home to one of the key training sites in 1917, which today is an indispensable part of the modern U.S. Army.

Cotner will talk about how Columbia got ready before war was declared, and how a civilian “army” of 10,000 workers – half of Columbia’s population at the time – built the camp, now Fort Jackson, in record time.

Also on hand will be Dane Coffman, known for his portrayals of Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing, who spoke at one of the museum’s monthly Lunch and Learn programs last year.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.