COLUMBIA — Lawmakers renewed efforts to move the state’s Confederate museum to the Charleston area, bringing a collection that would include the banner that was removed from the Statehouse grounds.
Reps. Brian White, R-Anderson, and Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, offered wording in the state budget Tuesday instructing the Department of Administration to explore sites in the Charleston area for the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
The move would include numerous Civil War artifacts, flags and other memorabilia in addition to the Confederate flag that was at the center of the ceremony last summer to remove it less that a month after the racially motivated killings of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church.
The House’s budget-writing panel unanimously approved the proposal, including Legislative Black Caucus member Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who said her main issue was cost.
“I am very concerned, when I have not seen one dime yet for the Abbeville (education-equity) lawsuit,” Cobb-Hunter said. “My overall issue is cost and whether or not our priorities are in the right place.”
Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, said that given the climate in the Lowcountry, the organization would oppose it.
“The last thing we need right now is a reminder,” Scott said.
Limehouse said moving the museum has nothing to do with the flag, and that he and White, the budget committee chairman, are aiming to save the state money.
“I voted twice to bring the Confederate flag down from the Statehouse,” Limehouse said. “What we’re trying to do is stop the duplication of effort. This is budgeting.”
The panel has not granted the museum’s $3.6 million one-time request to renovate the current site in Columbia, of which $550,000 would go for a display of the flag. The rest of the cash would be spent on expanding the museum to a new room, something that would require a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, windows and a new floor. The museum is housed at the South Carolina State Museum.
Limehouse has said previously the state is wasting cash by investing in a museum that gets little traffic in the Midlands. Limehouse said he’s not married to the idea that the museum has to come to the Charleston area but that it makes sense. The Lowcountry is home to several museums that could house the Confederate museum, including the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum and the site that houses the H.L. Hunley submarine in North Charleston.
Having the Relic Room and Military Museum in the Lowcountry could make it self-sustaining and possibly generate revenue, Limehouse said.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has previously opposed bringing the museum to his city.
Staff writer Melissa Boughton contributed to this report.