CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Charleston is known for its colorful history from colonial days to the Revolutionary War siege by the British to the first shots of the Civil War. But now visitors can glimpse much further back - billions of years back.
Amid the skeletons of a cave bear, a ground sloth and a giant armadillo at the Natural History Museum at the College of Charleston is a fossil dating to 3.4 billion years ago. All were prized possessions of Mace Brown, a Mount Pleasant businessman who has collected fossils most of his life and donated his entire collection of 3,000 items, appraised at about $1.6 million, to the college.
Early next year, the college will dedicate and name the museum after Brown, who started with a rock collection in middle school and later started collecting fossils.
"It became an obsession and then a passion and now a museum," Brown, retired after a career in investing and financial planning, said Friday. He used to display his fossils at his home and his downtown Charleston office building.
"It just got to the point where 10 or 15 years ago I said I've got to have an endgame for what's going to happen," he said.
His longtime friend is Jim Carew, a geology professor at the college who is now curator of the museum.
"The problem with the college has always been space," said Carew, who worked to bring Brown's collection to the school.
When they first discussed the idea, there was no room on campus for such a museum. But then the college built a new $70 million, 100,000-square-foot building for its School of Math and Sciences, and room was found for the 3,700-square-foot museum on the building's second floor.