Feature Articles

April Issue 2000

SC State Museum in Columbia, SC, Hosts Two New Exhibits

Three decades of outrageous onstage antics, wild costumes and some of the most influential and moving music in history will rock the Palmetto State through May 21 when the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC, hosts the photographic exhibit Thirty Years of Rock and Roll. And, the tradition of the American spirit that is embodied in baseball is given a new slant in the exhibit The 521 All Star's, which continues through July 5. The show depicts through photography an "invisible" league of black players who have played for the love of the game since the 1920s in small communities throughout the South.

"Popular culture has as much an impact on society as do changes in the economy, presidential elections or military conflicts," says Curator of History Elaine Nichols. "Thirty Years of Rock and Roll" celebrates one of the most significant developments in popular culture during the 20th century."

Pioneers Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis flash across the stage to bring viewers as close as possible to the thrill of seeing these and many other great artists in concert. Photographed by fan-turned-photographer Larry Hulst during the 1970s, '8Os and '90s, these vivid pictures transmit the energy of the Rolling Stones, the flamboyant costumes of Kiss and Billy Idol, the Band's final concert, known as the Last Waltz, and Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison just before their untimely deaths.

Hulst captured these special moments while attending more than 2800 rock concerts.

"The exhibit also features a number of artifacts that bring to mind the flavor of rock's early days," says Nichols. Included are a juke box, 8-track tape player and tape, go-go boots, a transistor radio, a miniskirt, a jumpsuit worn by R & B legend James Brown, an Elvis candy box and, of course, a 1957 Chevy.

Thirty Years of Rock and Roll was organized by the Colorado Springs Museum.

The 521 All Stars exhibit can be seen in the museum's SC Connections gallery. Based on the book The 521 All Stars: A Championship Story of Baseball and Community, the exhibit depicts the game in its purest form: scrap metal base lines, rotten wood bleachers, teams composed of brothers, fathers and sons, and most importantly, fellowship within the community.

Until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, major league baseball was the pastime for white players and fans. Segregated and separated, black players were forced to form leagues of their own.

In 1996, author Frye Gaillard was driving north on Route 521 in Sumter County when he discovered a homemade ballpark and stopped to take pictures of the players. He and his partner, photographer Byron Baldwin, spent the next season and a half watching and studying the Gamecock baseball league of Rembert, S.C. In Rembert, Gaillard and Baldwin found a rich tradition of community spirit, and a community that loved baseball. The teams are comprised only of African-Americans.

The story of the 521 All Stars was featured on CBS's Sunday Morning in 1998, the same year the book was published. The league of 521 has been playing for a number of years, continuing a strong tradition of America's pastime.

The exhibit features a reconstruction of a grandstand like that where the 521 All Stars play, as well as many of the photographs and text from the book.

"I think this exhibit is important to the minority community because it shows how a game like baseball brings people together," says Chief Curator of History Fritz Hamer.

As many do, a lot of the players in this league have dreams of making it in the pros. In some cases, for the players of Highway 521, dreams may become reality.

"That's what makes this exhibit so interesting," says Hamer. "For baseball fans, this is where the talent and prospects of professional baseball come from."

The All Stars of Route 521 have won the Gamecock league championship the past two years in a row. Team owners drive from as far away as Charlotte, NC, just to see their teams play ball.

Players have other responsibilities, though. They have full time jobs and families. No money changes hands, no trophies or rings are given out. They just play because they love to.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings or call the museum at 803/898-4921.

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