From the Beacon: Dig up the past during Archaeology Month

There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "The palest ink is better than the best memory." When books were written by hand and not produced in great quantities, they were kept in small containers which their owners -- usually the wealthy or the clergy -- carried with them. As manuscript volumes accumulated in religious houses or in homes of the wealthy, they were stored on shelves or in cupboards. These cupboards are the direct predecessors of today's bookcases. Indeed, bookcases and shelving have become the guardians of our memories by safeguarding our past; they shield our stories from harm and keep our treasures intact.

With certainty, we can say that we owe the longevity of our collections to the protection of bookcases and shelves. Those collections -- maps, letters, pictures, documents -- guard our history and keep our past alive so that we, and generations to come, can connect with those familiar voices and carry their memories forward.

Many of these important local collections are housed at the Beaufort Branch Library. Known as The Beaufort District Collection, it exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture and environment of our part of the South Carolina Lowcountry.Besides the research room, there is the "Virtual Beaufort District Collection," the BDC Web pages, the Online Obituary Index, the Phosphate, Farms, and Family digital collection, and the Connections blog.

At various points in the past, Beaufort District included all or parts of current Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Allendale counties. Staffed by one full-time librarian and one full-time preservation associate, the Beaufort District Collection also has specially trained docents who monitor the research area and assist in special projects. While materials cannot be removed from the Beaufort District Collection, duplicate copies of some titles are available through the "Local History" sections at the branch libraries in Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, Lobeco and St. Helena Island. Most of the printed items held within the BDC may be photocopied in the Beaufort District Collection room, pursuant to U.S. copyright laws.

Archaeology Month

If you like digging up the past, there's a lot to keep you busy at the library this month. October is Archeology Month and Beaufort County Library, the Historic Beaufort Foundation and USCB have put together an ambitious six-program series. These are free and designed to be enjoyable to anyone 12 or older with an interest in archaeology, architecture, history, African-American culture, slave resistance or genealogy. The programs are:

"Trying to Capture a Culture," discussion with film-maker Teresa Bruce; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6, Beaufort District Collection, 311 Scott St., Beaufort, 2nd floor

"Slave Architecture in Beaufort," Evan Thompson; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8, County Council Chambers, 1000 Ribaut Road, Beaufort

"Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Heritage Corridor," Emory Campbell; 1 to 2 p.m. Oct. 13, Hilton Head library, 11 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island

"My Family History Research in Black and White," Barbara Carter; 1 to 2 p.m. Oct. 17, Beaufort District Collection, 311 Scott St., Beaufort, 2nd floor

"African-American Genealogy Workshop," Grace Cordial; 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 25, Bluffton library, 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton; reservations required by calling 843-757-1537

"Maroon Communities," Dr. Timothy Lockley, University of Warwick; 1 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Performing Arts Center, 801 Carteret St., Beaufort

There's a lot to discover at the Beaufort County Library -- visit us in October and see what you can dig up