The Charleston County Public Library is an indispensable resource for primary source documentation of Charleston’s rich history, but since most of us don’t have time to duck into the South Carolina Room to file through plats and periodicals, our history lessons take other forms.
“Charleston really wears its history on its sleeve and it’s very accessible and it’s one of the things that makes Charleston unique,” says library historian Nic Butler, host of the Charleston Time Machine podcast and proprietor of a library website of the same name. “The traditional methods of reaching the public in the history field are pretty limited, and so there is a fairly new field in the history world called ‘public history,’ and that’s what I’m doing,” he says.
Each week, Butler tackles a new topic in Charleston history, some familiar and current — Butler looked at Green Book directories in February — and some more obscure — recent episodes have told the story of Abraham the Unstoppable, a formerly-enslaved man of African descent who worked as a frontier courier in colonial South Carolina. By Butler’s account, he’s the only historian employed by a public library in the nation, and the podcast is a natural outgrowth of his work to document history for the public. “I’m already going to this effort to create programs, so let me just make the next step and make an archival version in a podcast,” Butler says. —Sam Spence
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