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SCETV’s Between the Waters Project - Now Available!

September 23, 2016 - Posted in Education by B. Newman
Screen shot from Between the Waters website

Between the Waters, www.betweenthewaters.org, is SCETV’s new immersive transmedia website showcasing the culture and history of Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000 acre historic site on the coast of South Carolina. Located between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, Hobcaw is a crossroads representing every era of human history, providing a lens through which many threads of the nation’s story may be examined. Visitors to the Between the Waters website take a self-directed virtual tour of Hobcaw Barony, moving down the roads and rice canals, entering slave dwellings and grand houses, watching videos, examining photographs, and listening to historians and the first-person stories of former residents and relatives.

The significant natural areas and historic structures, the house belongings, documents and objects connected to Hobcaw’s various occupants, offer insight into the worlds of the daily lives of those who lived there and those who visited. It was home to Native Americans and enslaved Africans and their descendants; a land grant to the Lords Proprietors; part of the Lowcountry Rice Kingdom; the hunting retreat of financier Bernard Baruch and a haven for world leaders, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Unlike much of the property along the South Carolina coast, Hobcaw remains intact, protected from commercial development, and ready to tell its story.

Hobcaw’s name derives from a Native American word meaning “between the waters.” Oyster middens, large deposits of empty oyster shells that line the banks of saltwater creeks, are evidence of these early inhabitants. The remnants of canals, dikes, roads, trunks and other indications of rice plantations on the property mark the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the colonial era. The ghostly cottages of Friendfield Village, a group of abandoned dwellings once inhabited by slaves and continuously occupied by African Americans until the 1950s, call to mind the culture and suffering of enslaved Africans. In contrast, the imposing Baruch houses, Hobcaw House and Bellefield, evoke the wealth and influence of the property’s twentieth century owners. The pristine condition of the land and waters testifies to the conservationist ethic of the woman who preserved Hobcaw Barony, Bernard Baruch’s daughter, Belle Baruch.

Among the historical themes connected to the Hobcaw story are Southern Foodways, World Politics, Jewish Life in South Carolina, Native American History, African-American Religion, Sportsmanship and Hunting, and Slavery in the Rice Kingdom. Presenting Hobcaw Barony in a non-linear, interactive, and place-based format, and using Hobcaw’s artifacts, structures, and landmarks as storytelling cues, Between the Waters encourages inquiry, analysis, and engagement with these themes. Visitors set their own pace, allowing them to arrive at a deeper, individualized understanding of the site content and themes, while developing personalized connections to the history. Those interested in exploring a particular theme will be able to navigate using “trails” that lead directly to specific focus sites pertaining to a specified subject.

In addition to the digital tour through Hobcaw Barony, other resources are available to visitors in the website’s Discovery Center, including standards-based lesson plans developed in conjunction with SCETV’s Education Department. The Discovery Center also contains a database that allows users to access individual Between the Waters resources outside the context of the virtual tour, such as primary source documents, maps, new and archival photographs, videos, original texts, and various other forms of media. Among the highlights of the resource database are: a complete 1940’s era student notebook from the one-room Strawberry Schoolhouse in Friendfield Village, burial records of Georgetown’s Jewish Cemetery and the Marietta cemetery, and the Hobcaw House guestbook.

Social media is also an integral part of the Between the Waters user experience and overall educational and storytelling process. Available social media platforms currently include Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, and a collaborative blog, Making History Together. These public forums create community associated with the site by encouraging dialogue, exchange, and participatory media among a wide and diverse audience. Making History Together publishes weekly educational articles that are paired with photographs, oral histories, current interviews, and more. The most popular article, “African American Midwifery”, has been shared widely across Facebook and Twitter, and read nearly 3,000 times by viewers all over the world.

Between the Waters was launched with a series of events that have been open to the public, beginning with a presentation at Coastal Carolina University on September 12, 2016. The project team also presented on September 20, at the annual Slave Dwelling Conference in Columbia, and at the Avery Research Center in Charleston on September 21. These events introduced the completed website by guiding audiences through Hobcaw Barony while detailing the project experience. More information can be found on the Between the Waters Facebook, Twitter, and the Making History Together blog.

In an era when technology increasingly connects the present to the past, Between the Waters sets a new standard, making history feel like a lived experience. Produced by SCETV, the website has been developed in collaboration with the Belle W. Baruch Foundation and the Georgetown County Digital Library, and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Humanities Council of South Carolina.

Be sure to visit the Making History Together blog to learn more about this exciting project!

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