Wood Basket of the World Conference

The University of South Carolina will host “Wood Basket of the World: Lumbering, Manufacturing, and Conserving South Carolina’s Forests,” a major conference held in Sumter on April 21 – 23, 2023 that will feature scholars and industry professionals exploring the history of lumber, wood products, and forest conservation in South Carolina. The conference is the first component of an expansive, multi-year project that will also include the creation of a traveling exhibit, an oral history project, an archival effort, and possibly a published anthology. SC Humanities supported “Wood Basket of the World” with a Planning Grant and a Major Grant.

Lumber has been an important industry in South Carolina since the late 1800s. Today, South Carolina is part of the “wood basket of the world” and features 13 million acres of commercial forest land – about 2/3 of the state’s total land area. With over 90,000 jobs and a payroll of $4.1 billion annually, forestry is the most important manufacturing industry in the state. Sumter is known as South Carolina’s “lumber capital” and is home to the state’s largest furniture company, among other wood manufacturing and related plants.

The “Wood Basket of the World” conference will bring scholars, industry professionals, and community members together to share cutting-edge findings on the history of lumber, wood products, forest conservation and destruction. The event will include talks, poster sessions, and field trips to important lumber-related sites, including Millford Plantation, Audubon SC’s Francis Beidler Forest, Lake Marion, and Congaree National Park. The full conference schedule is available here: https://woodbasketoftheworldconvening.square.site/schedule. Registration is $120 for the full weekend or $50 for Saturday only. (The student rate is $60 for the weekend or $25 for Saturday only.) Registration is available HERE.

Additionally, the project team will work on the development of a traveling exhibit titled “Wood Basket of the World” that is tentatively scheduled to open in Sumter in Spring 2024 before becoming available to travel the state. The exhibit will incorporate the scholarship of the 2023 conference and inform South Carolina citizens about the important role that wood manufacturing has played in the state’s history. Other potential projects might grow from the initial conference, including a published anthology, an oral history project, and an archival effort.

For more information about the “Wood Basket of the World” project, please contact Dr. Jessica Elfenbein, 803-777-3282, jessicae@mailbox.sc.edu.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 20-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually. South Carolina Humanities receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as corporate, foundation and individual donors. The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Featured historical images are from the digital collections of the South Caroliniana Library, USC