Current Exhibits

Santa Elena; The Missing Piece

By the early 1500s, Spanish explorers had charted the southeast coast of North America, naming it La Florida.

After a series of Spanish voyages from 1514 to 1521, a point of land off a great harbor was sighted, and named La Punta de Santa Elena in honor of Saint Helena.  Today, this area is known by its French name of Port Royal.  Port Royal Sound remains one of North America’s oldest continuously used geographic names.

Accounts of the region’s abundance inspired such explorers as Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon (Spain) and Jean Ribaut (France) who were actually involved in a race to reach La Punta de Santa Elena to lay claim for their King. 

After many starts and stops by the French, Spanish, and English, Santa Elena, in late summer of 1576, the capital of Florida, was burned to the ground by the Indians, while the Spanish soldiers and settlers watched.

In October 1577, Santa Elena was re-settled.  With 53 men, a new fort, San Marcos was assembled from prefabricated wooden fort sections in six days.  From 1577 to 1580, Santa Elena functioned as a military outpost.   By November 1580, more than 30 houses had been rebuilt using lime and mortar construction to better defend against fire and flaming arrows.  The population soon swelled to about 400 people.  Life in Santa Elena became relatively peaceful and the colony began to prosper.

That is until 1586 when Sir Francis Drake, an English privateer, began raiding Spain’s colonies.  In June 1586, Drake’s fleet destroyed San Augustine, then turned North to Santa Elena.  Spared destruction when the English fleet missed Port Royal Sound in the dark, the Spanish decided to unite their forces in La Florida at St. Augustine.

In the summer of 1587, everything worth salvaging was loaded onto ships.  What remained was destroyed.  Santa Elena, once the capital of La Florida, was gone.

To hear the end of the story and fill in all the missing pieces, please visit the Beaufort History Museum. 

On loan from the Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina


The Beaufort History Museum

in collaboration with

The Beaufort Film Society


Beaufort in Films

Over the years, Beaufort’s history and beauty has made it a natural setting for a wide variety of films.

Beaufort In Films, being presented in partnership with Ron and Rebecca Tucker of the Beaufort Film Society. The exhibit, featuring movie posters and memorabilia from films made in Beaufort, will be on display at the Museum through February 28, 2019. The annual Beaufort International Film Festival will be held February 19 – 24, 2019. 

For 13 years the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), presented by the Beaufort Film Society, has hosted thousands of film lovers from around the world.  According to FilmFreeway, a marketing service connecting filmmakers, screenwriters, and film festivals worldwide, BIFF rates in the Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals,  and #1 in SC.

Organizers are expecting upwards of 15,000 attendees, nearly doubling the population of Beaufort!  This year, the 6 day Festival will present awards in the areas of Features, Documentaries (feature and short), Short Films, Student Films, Screenplays, Animation, Comedy and Audience Choice.  Winners will be named for best actor, best actress, and best director.

This year’s Pat Conroy Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Paul Sorvino.  Past recipients have included Andie MacDowell, Vanna White, Gary Weeks, Powers Boothe and Tom Berenger.

Reconstruction Beaufort

In June 2016, the Museum unveiled a new Special Exhibit focused on the post Civil War Reconstruction Era here in Beaufort, titled Reconstruction Beaufort, Islands of Hope in a Sea of Distress

In the South, the Civil War wreaked devastation, and the Reconstruction Era which followed doomed it to more--except in Beaufort. This exhibit explains how and why education, politics, industry and agriculture thrived here while suffering elsewhere.

This exhibit is currently on display across the street from the Arsenal, at the National Park Service's office.

Our mission is to preserve, portray, and promote the experiences of our past that influence us now and in the future.

The Beaufort History Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902. Mailing Address: PO Box 172, Beaufort, SC 29901 

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