About the Project

This website is the result of a 2016 Advanced Support for Innovative Research Excellence (ASPIRE) award from the University of South Carolina. The project objectives were threefold:

  1. digitize objects and associated archives of significant historic collections from the University of South Carolina’s collecting institutions (A.C. Moore Herbarium, McKissick Museum, and South Caroliniana Library)
  2. merge those digital records of natural history collections into a comprehensive, cross-referenced database accessible to the public online
  3. utilize newly created digital images to enhance exhibits through interactive touchscreens

In 2018 the project was expanded through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This new phase of the project added the archives, specimens, and objects related to seven additional naturalists, as well as materials held at The Charleston Museum. Additionally, 3 digital exhibitions featuring McKissick’s collections were developed.

These archival collections not only document the 19th-century investigations of the natural environment in South Carolina, but they also illustrate the establishment and advancement of the field of natural history. The material collections, including botanical, fossil, and mineral specimens, exemplify the natural world that existed two hundred years ago, and are sometimes the only representatives of these taxa in existence due to extinction and loss of geologic localities. Additionally, these objects are not always appropriate for exhibition due to their sensitive or fragile nature; digitizing them will allow for use in on-site exhibitions as well as an online resource.

Other features of this website include video vignettes and a timeline of these naturalists’ investigations. This resource is in no way complete; however, it focuses on the naturalists associated with the University and includes significant events in US and global history. Rather than highlighting historic naturalists, the video vignettes feature modern researchers from the University as they demonstrate the collection, documentation, and preservation of objects for future generations.

Behind the Scenes

Many specimens must be numbered and cataloged prior to digitization.
Photos are taken in a lightbox to ensure consistent lighting.
Entomology collections require special attention.
Assistants hold a dark background behind a large portrait of Ellen Cooper during photography.
Highlights from our blog
Mining McKissick
Telling the Story of Southern Life: Community, Culture, and the Environment
June 24, 2021

As the Historic Southern Naturalists grant project begins to wrap up, each contributing institution has been challenged to share lessons learned, discoveries made, and connections uncovered. We have so very much to share after five years (probably too much) so here are some highlights. We’ll begin with the biggest discovery, one that also left us […]

June 3, 2021

Josh Schutzenhofer, a student working with the University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections, reflects on what he’s learned throughout the 3-year grant. It is hard to believe, but we are beginning to wrap up our Historic Southern Naturalists grant project! This project has been arduous at times, but so worth it. At this point in […]

April 22, 2021

As we get closer to finishing the Historic Southern Naturalists grant Matt Gibson, of The Charleston Museum, reflects on his growth during the project. The Historic Southern Naturalists project has given me the opportunity to refine my photography skills. Although I have taken photos for research paleontological projects in the past, the scope of objects […]

March 11, 2021

With the HSN project deadline looming, McKissick Museum Graduate Assistant Nate Price reflects on the team’s accomplishments and upcoming challenges as they transition between collections. Time waits for no man. Even in this seemingly endless vortex of COVID-19, people will continue to persist and push for change. The unyielding will of the people can crush […]

February 26, 2021

This month’s blog, written by our friends at The Charleston Museum, explores the significance of one of the South’s most valuable natural habitats. Earlier this month, we recognized World Wetlands Day. Early southern naturalists also recognized the importance of our wetland habitats in terms of organismal diversity. One of those early naturalists was Lewis R. […]