The Robert Smalls Collection
"The Life and Times
Congressman Robert Smalls"
A Traveling Exhibition
"The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls," is a multifaceted traveling exhibition which includes visual displays, three-dimensional artifacts, pictures and other memorabilia of Robert Smalls, his life and his family. The exhibition also includes a digital photo frame with pictures of the 2004 christening and the 2007 commissioning of the LSV-8 MG ROBERT SMALLS, the largest army transport ship of its kind. The MG ROBERT SMALLS is named for Congressman Smalls who was also commissioned as a Major General in the South Carolina Militia.
"The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls" includes furniture from the “big house” where Smalls and his mother were enslaved; scaled replicas of the CSS Planter and the USS Keokuk, the two ships that Robert Smalls piloted during the Civil War; letters written by Robert Smalls to dignitaries of his time; pictures of the Robert Smalls, his house in Beaufort, SC, his immediate family and descendants through the generations; copies of the legislation that created the first public schools in South Carolina, the South Carolina Public Accommodations Act and the US legislation that created Parris Island Marine Base, all submitted by Robert Smalls during his career as a South Carolina Legislator and US Congressman. It also includes Robert Smalls’ walking cane; newspaper articles dating back to 1862; pictures on a 32” digital picture frame of the LSV-8 MG ROBERT SMALLS, the largest army transport ship of its kind, which was commissioned into active duty on September 15, 2007; books; a replica of the musket owned by Robert Smalls; and other memorabilia that illustrate his life and times.
The Robert Smalls Collection provides programmatic and ancillary items which enhance the exhibition. A collage of "The Planter" by internationally renowned artist, James Denmark, serves as the signature image of the exhibition. This image may be used to create posters, coffee cups, magnet or notepaper for sale in the venue shops. Additionally, the Robert Smalls Collection provides a speakers bureau which includes historians, authors and direct descendants of Congressman Robert Smalls who provide both the setting and the context for the traveling exhibition. What was life like in South Carolina for African Americans in the mid to late 1800s? In what ways did newly freed men contribute to the union efforts in the Civil War and the Reconstruction Period? What has been the impact of growing up as a direct descendant of Congressman Robert Smalls on his great, great grand children? These and other questions are addressed by the speakers. The Robert Smalls Collection has also been granted a license to show the fourth part of "Slavery and the Making of America," Episode 4, which focuses on the life of Robert Smalls. This video may be shown in a separate program or contiuously with the exhibition.
The Robert Smalls Collection is associated with the South Carolina State Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, located in Columbia, SC. "The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls" is a part of the museum's Traveling Exhibits Program and is managed by the museum. Contact information for both the South Carolina State Museum's Traveling Exhibits Program and The Robert Smalls Collection is listed in the Contact Section of this site.