Santa Elena Center and the Coastal Discovery Museum elevate Beaufort County’s unique heritage and history.
Celebrating nearly six years in operation, the Santa Elena History Center sincerely thanks the dedicated volunteers, generous supporters, numerous partners, and especially Beaufort County, for launching efforts to claim Santa Elena as America’s First Capital.
Both non-profits strives to better serve local communities and everyone interested in the heritage of the Lowcountry. This official collaboration will be known moving forward as the Santa Elena Center at the Coastal Discovery Museum.
Aligning efforts will allow Santa Elena’s mission – To discover, preserve, and share the untold story of America’s first and lost century through the rise and fall of Santa Elena to become part of the overall mission of the Coastal Discovery Museum – To inspire people to care for the Lowcountry.
Led by archaeologist Dr. Rex Garniewicz at the Coastal Discovery Museum, the Santa Elena Center will continue to discover, preserve and educate the public about the National Heritage Landmark site of Charlesfort-Santa Elena.
“This is really one of the most incredibly complex and fascinating histories we have to tell in the Lowcountry.” According to Dr. Garniewicz “It was where the brutal rivalry between France and Spain took hold in the New World and where the Spanish based their northern operations, building forts all the way into the Appalachian Mountains.
Santa Elena marks the shift from European exploration to settlement.
Intense conflict arose with Native American populations, who had already established sophisticated chiefdoms along the coast. In a struggle for survival, these Mississippian chiefdoms were able to defeat the Spanish in the interior. They burned Santa Elena, but eventually suffered great losses to their culture in the face of European colonialism. “
The shared vision creates a new center of excellence at the museum on the historic Honey Horn property.
It continues the progress that Santa Elena Foundation made in its developmental phase. This includes public programming, special events, educational initiatives, and outreach to students of all ages. The center will be a resource and repository for scholarly research and publications.
Additional components are in development, such as a 1,000 sq. ft. traveling exhibition.
The exhibition profiles of this incredible story — the story of America’s first century. The first stop is Coastal Discovery Museum’s “Discovery House” on Hilton Head Island. It connects visitors to Beaufort and Parris Island through a tour of the archaeological site. It continues to support the archaeological discoveries yet to be made.
Both institutions see this as a strong, positive move. To make it possible, they created the Santa Elena Society for supporters fund both organizations. This will ensure that future generations know Santa Elena’s place in America’s first century.
“It’s been a rewarding journey for those involved in the establishment of the Santa Elena Foundation,” says Megan Morris, Foundation Director.
“There are thousands of stakeholders – donors, volunteers, and partners – that helped this organization progress quickly and thanks to them, we are at a crossroads of success. We are excited to transition to the next chapter and new projects.”
Look for more information about our new initiatives, ways to be involved, and how you can support this important endeavor.