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Council of SC Professional Archaeologists Public Education Grant Recipients

6 Jul 2021 11:32 AM | Dina Rivera (Administrator)

Waccamaw Indian People: Past, Present, Future  

Coastal Carolina University/Horry County Museum/Waccamaw Indian People  Council of SC Professional Archaeologists  

Carolyn Dillian (RPA #12519)  

In spring semester, 2021, 37 students in Dr. Katie Stringer Clary and Dr. Carolyn  Dillian’s classes at Coastal Carolina University worked in collaboration with the Waccamaw  Indian People to create an exhibit at the Horry County Museum entitled Waccamaw Indian  People: Past, Present, Future. The main goal of this project was to tell the story of the  Waccamaw Indian People through their words, voices, images, and belongings, and educate the  community about the Waccamaw Indian People’s history, heritage, and culture.  

Because the exhibit was intended to be a true collaborative partnership with the  Waccamaw Indian People, the Chief, Vice Chief, and Tribal Council were consulted at all stages  of the exhibit creation. From the very beginning, Drs. Clary and Dillian met with the Chief and  Vice Chief of the tribe to obtain their consent for the project and talk about what kind of exhibit  content they would like to see included in the physical and online spaces. The PIs obtained IRB  approval (IRB #2021.114) prior to the initiation of this phase of the project, and a COVID  Research Resumption Plan was submitted and approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies and  Research at CCU. Ten tribal members agreed to be interviewed by CCU students for exhibit  content, and their interviews were recorded. Excerpts of the interviews were used as printed text  and as push-button audio in the exhibit, and the full interviews are available through the exhibit  website (a QR code in the exhibit allows museum-goers direct access to this resource). All  photographs, text, audio, and exhibit displays were approved by tribal members at every stage of  design, and their comments and edits were incorporated prior to printing and construction, so that  their message came through in the final exhibit.  

Through the use of interviews, photographs, archaeological artifacts, and personal  belongings, the exhibit traces the history of the Waccamaw Indian People from prehistoric times  through today, and highlights tribal members’ aspirations for the future of their tribe.  Additionally, the use of digital spaces, websites, audio, and videos allows people who are unable  to visit the Museum physically to interact with artifacts and interpretation.  

Museum goers completed an exit survey online with responses that were overwhelmingly  positive. However, museum audiences were not the sole beneficiaries of this effort. We also  sought to educate Coastal Carolina University students in museum design, provide opportunities  for students to work collaboratively with diverse descendant communities, and give students  experience in ethnographic methods and historical research. As instructors, Drs. Clary and  Dillian worked with 37 Coastal Carolina University students in building the exhibit from start to  finish, using best museum practices, community and stakeholder engagement, and commitment  to education for the public.  

The mission of the Horry County Museum is “to collect and preserve material related to the  prehistory, natural history, history and culture of Horry County; to interpret and to create exhibits  of such materials and to prepare educational programs related to them for presentation to the  public.” The Horry County Museum typically gets approximately 25,000 visitors each year,  mostly drawn from the local community, school groups, and organized tours. The artifacts  selected for the exhibit came from the Museum’s collections, but other belongings were placed  on loan to the Museum by members of the Waccamaw Indian People. An important part of the  exhibit was the personal narratives and oral histories provided by members of the tribe during 

interviews with CCU students. Artifacts included: prehistoric projectile points and pottery  spanning Paleoindian through to historic times; a pipe, gourd art, ribbon dress and ribbon shirt on  loan from tribal members (loan agreement arranged between the Horry County Museum and  individual owners of these objects); and photographs, text, and audio highlighting tribal members  and their stories.  

Students stated that they enjoyed the project and working with the Waccamaw Indian  People. The ability to see the project to completion and interact with tribal members was one of  the biggest benefits. One student commented “I learned a lot about what goes on behind the  scenes when it comes to putting on an exhibit.” Others focused more specifically on what they  learned about the Waccamaw Indian People, such as “my favorite part of this exhibit was our  collaboration with the Waccamaw and our ability to learn more about them first-hand. That first  Zoom meeting with the Chief and Vice Chief changed our perspective on the class. This was no  longer a class where we were forced to learn a curriculum and create a project based on this. The  end result of this project was something bigger than academia, which, as students, we are not  used to nor have had much experience with. This project gave us the chance to make a real  change for the better in our community.” Another commented that because the exhibit sometimes  addressed painful personal stories by members of the Waccamaw Indian People, the classes  worked respectfully with “…difficult information in a manner that was inclusive [and] brought  up discussions of difficult topics” which allowed everyone to learn about that history.  

An additional and unexpected positive impact is that this project serves as a model for  other museums. The partnership between multiple University departments, the Museum, and the  Waccamaw Indian People has attracted interest from other museums in the region and beyond.  Drs. Clary and Dillian have been contacted by individuals from the South Carolina State  Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and the USC Lancaster Native American Studies Center,  for advice on creating collaborative efforts of their own. The transparency in the development of  this project, and the exhibition of our process within the exhibit and online, should serve to  inspire other museums to create similar exhibits and partnerships.  

Measured outcomes revealed that the exhibit educated the community about the  Waccamaw Indian People, created collaborations and lasting partnerships with CCU’s Native  American neighbors, and raised student awareness about this local descendant community while  giving them the knowledge and skill to work respectfully with diverse groups.  

Waccamaw Indian People: Past, Present, Future will remain on display at the Horry  County Museum for at least one year. Portable, collapsible panels were also printed with exhibit  materials, which will be loaned for temporary exhibits to local libraries, schools, and other  organizations. If the Waccamaw Indian People would like them, the printed exhibit panels,  photographs, and other exhibit items not owned by the Horry County Museum will be given to  the tribe to place on display at their Tribal Grounds office or facility of their choice after the  exhibit ends at the Museum. Additional materials based on the exhibit content will be placed into  education kits that are used in the Museum’s school outreach programs and teaching materials.  The website for the exhibit will remain online with photographs, text, and audio links, offering a  permanent educational resource for everyone to use.


Media featuring Waccamaw Indian People: Past, Present, Future  

Waccamaw Indian People exhibit opens in Conway CCU Article/ Video:  https://www.coastal.edu/ccustories/news/news-article/index.php?id=5313 

We Are Here CCU Article:  


SC Humanities Article: https://schumanities.org/news/the-waccamaw-indian-people-past present-and-future-exhibit/ 

CCU News Vimeo Video: https://vimeo.com/540760153 

Post and Courier Article #1: https://www.postandcourier.com/understandsc/understand sc-waccamaw-indian-peoples-fight-to-become-a-federally-recognized 


Post and Courier Article #2:  

https://www.postandcourier.com/news/local_state_news/waccamaw-indian-people-of-sc gain-support-in-push-for-federal-recognition/article_f544dc84-9e15-11eb-99bb 33f9ba561773.html 

WPDE News Article/ Video: https://wpde.com/news/local/exhibit-showcasing-history of-waccamaw-indian-people-now-open-at-horry-county-museum 

Post and Courier “Understand SC” Podcast:  


Myhorrynews article: https://www.myhorrynews.com/news/waccamaw-indians-believe they-will-finally-be-acknowledged/article_7913cfb8-a9fe-11eb-823b-fb03db0e4d76.html 

Peedeenewsnetwork: https://www.peedeenewsnetwork.com/announcements/the waccamaw-indian-people-past-present-and-future-exhibit-opens-at-the-horry-county museum/article_a91ee700-96f4-11eb-a8f0-cfd32bc38583.html 

Social media mentions:  

CCU Twitter: https://twitter.com/CCUChanticleers/status/1393206967502397443 Dr. Sara Rich Tweet: https://twitter.com/wracksandruins/status/1392511865041866756

CCU Department of Anthropology and Geology Facebook Post:  

https://www.facebook.com/anthropologygeographyCCU/posts/learn-more-about-the new-exhibit-waccamaw-indian-people-past-present-future-http/1423403321353688/ 

CCU Facebook Exhibit preview Video:  


Exhibit digital resources:  

Waccamaw Past Present Future Website: https://waccamawpastpresentfuture.com/ 

Soundcloud Playlist: https://soundcloud.com/user-475547154/sets/waccamaw-indian people-past 

Waccamaw Indian People Website: https://www.waccamaw.org/single-post/ccu-horry county-museum-waccamaw-exhibit

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