PICKENS COUNTY — The history and past of Pickens County might be all around as you drive through the county, but some of the best kept secrets are those within the confines of the archives of the Pickens County Museum.
Among the rarities the museum possesses is a rare hand-made item dating back to circa 1870, created for the sole purpose of a barter, yet it is full of history and stories no one will ever fully know.
In August 2013, Gayle Lee of Easley donated a Zephyr wool flower arrangement, still inside its original glass casing that had been made by a former slave.
The arrangement was made to exchange as payment for sewing work to Sallie Garrett. Lee’s great grandmother bought the floral arrangement in 1898 and was eventually passed down to Lee herself.
This particular item may only be seen here, unfortunately, as light has become a detriment to the artifact.
“This is one of the most fragile items I have ever handled during my career,” curator Dan Brennan said. “That includes a 16th century book from the archives in Raleigh which was in better, stronger condition. The entire piece was hand-made and the way it was made is why it’s so vulnerable.”
According to Brennan it’s the uniqueness of the construction that makes the artifact so vulnerable.
“The glass is held together with a linen tape which someone sealed with plaster of Paris,” Brennan explained. “Either when it was made or at some point the trim was painted with gold paint, and I believe it’s the paint which is attacking itself and light only makes it worse.”
The arrangement is kept in a dark room, except on rare occasions.
“This is one of those items that light and exposure is just too degrading to display,” Brennan said. “We would love to be able to display the arrangement but over time it would just deteriorate.”
While this item may not be on display in the museum, the history of the county and its past residents is on display and welcomes individuals and groups for tours and the opportunity to ask questions in order to learn more.
“We always welcome the opportunity to give scheduled tours, and anyone is welcome to call and schedule one,” Brennan said. “We have lots of history and stories to share. Besides, it’s hot outside and we always have the air conditioning on.”