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Hiatt's term as Museum Director is history as of Sunday

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Friday, March 30, 2012

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Joada Hiatt showcases the National Register plaque awarded to the Greer Heritage Museum as a National Landmark located in the old Greer Post Office at 106 Main Street.

S.C. Department of Archives & History

Joada Hiatt showcases the National Register plaque awarded to the Greer Heritage Museum as a National Landmark located in the old Greer Post Office at 106 Main Street.

 

Joada Hiatt, Director of the Greer Heritage Museum, has resigned her duties effective Sunday. She will remain as the museum’s historian and will conduct tours of 10 or more visitors when available.

Hiatt, a part-time volunteer, has devoted many hours to the museum at its former downtown location and its move to the 106 S. Main Street building that formerly housed the city municipal government agencies. The museum, added to the National Historic Registry, occupies the old Greer Post Office. 

“I told the board last November I would be stepping down and gave them my formal letter last month,” Hiatt said. “I love doing this but I no longer want the whole burden of being the director and want to spend more time with my grandchildren.”

Hiatt has frequently mentioned that if her family’s Greer home was sold, she would relocate to Aiken to be with her grandchildren. Last Friday Hiatt was entertaining the grandchildren at Acme General Store in the upstairs softball arcade.

"I know how she feels. It's almost a full-time job," David Duncan, President of the Heritage Museum, said.

Hiatt, formerly librarian at the Greer Jean M. Smith Library, took the director’s unpaid position at the museum to help organize and catalog its contents and exhibits.

“This is a time in my life I need to step away from the director’s job. I’m ready to let go. This is a fun time in my life,” Hiatt said. “I will miss the people and patrons coming in and sharing stories. I won’t miss the job.”

Duncan said Hiatt had a visual idea where all museum objects would go during its latest move to the Main Street site. "There are a lot of objects in the museum," he said. "Joada had it all figured out where everything went. We had everything packed up and when we got to the museum Joada said put that there and this here ... "

The Heritage Museum, open on Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., had 1,500 visitors last year representing 24 state and three countries, excluding the U.S. There were times when volunteers weren’t available  Hiatt would post a sign on the doors stating the museum was closed because she was out of town.

“Joada took the museum to another level in the community,” David Langley of Langley & Associates, a museum board member, said. “Her passion for history and her organizational skills were remarkable. She made it a viable historic center with photographs and documents categorized and the exhibits she maintained in the museum space.”

Reno Deaton, President of the Greer Development Corp., said Joada’s loss will be felt with the economic arm of Greer. “Joada was a huge asset for our community,” Deaton said. “We would call her into our economic development meetings to give historic notes of the community for businesses seeking historical tax breaks. She has been phenomenal.”

Glenn Pace said he had a sigh of relief when Hiatt told him she would remain on the Board of Architectural Review. “Joada’s knowledge base in that capacity is overwhelming.  She has played a viable part in maintaining the agricultural integrity of Greer over the years,” Pace said.

“We’re going to miss Joada for a lot of reasons,” Greer Mayor Rick Danner said. “She’s nice, personable and knowledgeable and a ready resource. She knows so much history for our community. We wish her well in retirement.”

Hiatt’s influence in architectural meetings was significant. She often listened to all comments before pointing out inconsistent standards with new or renovated buildings or offering suggestions. “Joada’s comments were often a message within the message,” Pace said. “Her relationship to the history of Greer is amazing and so deep.”

The 104 Trade Business Center is an example of Hiatt’s vision of the future of Greer while maintaining the integrity of the past. Russ Braasch, owner of the Business Center, produced a creative and contemporary plan to renovate the former department store building. It included Braasch’s wishes to make it LEED Certified.

Hiatt’s suggestion of the design of the windows and front and back façades were incorporated into what is a showcase of history and contemporary design with environmental-friendly construction. Braasch held an open house Thursday where it was announced the building was accepted as LEED Certified.

Interestingly, there was discussion Thursday about Hiatt’s resignation at the 104 Business Center grand opening and the “Stand Up For Stan” fundraiser at the Grace Center.

“I’ve suggested to the (Museum) Board to hire a paid, full-time director and have the museum open at least five-six days a week,” Perry Williams, Commissioner of Greer CPW said. “To me, closing the museum during the week is like having a blinking red light as you enter Greer indicating it is closed.”

Hiatt agreed. “It at least needs to be open Wednesday through Saturday. A lot of businesses are closed on Mondays and it would be hard to find volunteers to work on Sunday.

"I believe I did a good job and am proud of what I’ve done,” Hiatt said. “A lot of the credit for the museum goes to Carm Hudson setting up and former Mayor Don Wall.”

Langley said, “Her storytelling capacity makes you feel you’re there. The museum is a priceless part of what brings people to Greer.”

Hiatt, a noted storyteller and author who has stories published in books on the history of Greer, did pass on a story that was told to her from city employees upon vacating their former offices. “I was told, when we moved in, there were ghosts in the building and you could hear their voices. Some people tell me you can still hear them.”

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