Opening the door and coming face to face with the 4th largest lion to come out of Africa is a jolt that sends your imagination straight to safari in the African bush. Belton Area Museum Association is currently host to an exhibit aptly named Expedition: A Natural History Adventure Around the World that showcases a large collection of natural history items that are on loan from several local residents.
The stunning gemstone collection is on loan from Gina Clary, owner of Diamond Hill Mines in Abbeville. The fossil collection was loaned from J. Ed. Horton, a paleontologist who calls Belton home but has been on dig sites across the globe. The expansive collection of mounted animals is but a third of the collection belonging to ardent sportsmen, Joe and Karen Finley. This collection spans North America, South America, and Africa featuring wildlife ranging from a black bear to a piranha to an ostrich and all manner of animals in between. The Finleys have generously offered to give their entire collection to the museum if they are able to establish a natural history museum.
The Belton Area Museum Association is in the early planning stages of establishing a South Carolina Museum of Natural History that will be located in Belton. Abigail Burden, the executive director of the museum, said that they are looking at constructing a 10,000 square foot building to house these collections and several others. Their goal will be to use these collections, many of which are decades old and were taken before the animals were considered endangered, to educate the public and promote conservation efforts.
The Belton Area Museum is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 9:00am-2:00pm and Saturdays from 10:00am-12:00pm. Admission is free. The Expedition exhibit is not a permanent exhibit but will be on display through May 29th of this year. The museum does have a permanent display of items that have been donated by locals showcasing the history of Belton and is also home to the South Carolina Tennis Museum. To plan a visit, get information on supporting the Belton Area Museum Association, or get further information on the proposed natural history museum, please contact them at beltonmuseum.com or follow them on Facebook.
The Belton Area Museum Association is located at 100 North Main Street in Belton and can be reached at 864-338-7400■.