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Gullah Museum founder ready to reopen and share stories again

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 12:38 PM EDT
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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - Louise Miller Cohen is a storyteller, and she’s anxious to share her stories again.

“I’m getting a lot of phone calls and at one time, because of the pandemic, I could not promise people anything, but I’m so grateful that we can put a date to it now,” Cohen said.

Cohen says the Gullah Museum on Hilton Head Island is reopening on Saturday, July 3 with a celebration.

“I’m just excited that the children will be able to come here and be able to follow us back all the way back to Africa,” Cohen said. “Taking you back in time to what life was like on Hilton Head Island before the bridge.”

Cohen was raised in a house across the street, so the story and experience are very personal.

“You’re gonna hear me talk about how my ancestors got to Hilton Head Island and how they had to take a rowboat from the mainland to the island,” Cohen said.

The museum sits on property purchased by her great-grandfather William Simmons after the Civil War. The building known as “The Little House” was built in 1930 and was once home to her uncle. It was restored in 2010. Before COVID-19, Cohen said guests would walk through the house but she’s not ready to go that far just yet. She does plan to bring items out of the house to share.

The Little House and other buildings on the museum property offer a trip back in time. A 1947 Great Dane trailer sits in the shade, under a tree, where it was converted into living quarters for Cohen’s Aunt Rena years ago. Her aunt’s likeness is now captured in a new mural along the side.

“This story that this trailer is telling is how the Gullah Geechee people took whatever was available to them and they made do,” Cohen said.

Cohen also has plans for two more buildings on the back of the property. They were once homes for migrant farmers.

“Mama built those houses so that they would have a place to stay,” Cohen said. “After that season was over anybody in the community that need a place to stay, they will come and stay in those houses, so we just need to restore them.”

The museum is located at 12 Georgianna Drive on Hilton Head Island, just off Gumtree Road.

“So I have all this experience and knowledge that I can share with the children who need to know about what life was like for our people,” said Cohen.

The grand re-opening celebration on July 3 will be from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It will include a fish fry, hot dogs, hamburgers, games and face painting for children, and live performances. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair and park at the Boys & Girls Club across the street.

For more information on the museum, go to gullahmuseumhhi.org.

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