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greenville cultural exchange center 

The Greenville Cultural Exchange Center is a multi-cultural museum founded in 1987 by Ruth-Ann Butler. The Center provides a haven of historical reflection, research and education. Exhibits, archives, guided tours and meeting spaces will be improved to offer even greater resources for those seeking knowledge and understanding of the City of Greenville’s and the region’s multi-cultural diversity, contributions and accomplishments.


The Greenville Cultural Exchange Center (GCEC) is an African-American history museum and culture center dedicated to the preservation of African-American history in the Greenville area.

Ruth Ann Butler, a former history teacher with Greenville County School System, founded GCEC in 1987. The inspiration for the center occurred after Ms. Butler visited the Beck Cultural Exchange Center in Knoxville , Tennessee . She was very impressed with Knoxville ’s effort to preserve its African-American history and envisioned a similar concept for Greenville . Ms. Butler, an avid researcher and history buff, has always been concerned about the absence of African-American history in most textbooks. While teaching history to seventh graders, she always collected history of African-Americans to supplement her lesson plans. Ms. Butler, the president and founder of GCEC, often states, “if we do not take our history, collect and preserve it, eventually it will be forgotten and destroyed”.

Ms. Butler began following her dream by organizing a steering committee consisting of City and County officials, business and community leaders, ministers, and other interested persons. During the first meeting held in Ms. Butler’s home, she shared what she had seen in Knoxville and presented her concept for Greenville. With no prior experience in business or non-profit management, Ms. Butler pursued her dream of establishing the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center. She presented her vision everywhere she went.

On January 27, 1986 , GCEC received its 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service and on August 22, 1987 the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center officially opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. GCEC continued to operate on a “shoestring” budget until it was closed on May 25, 2001 due to structural damage. Thanks to the support of “Friends of the Center” chaired by Helen Pinson, 107.3 JAMZ, over $70,000 was raised throughout the community in five months to renovate the Center in April 2002.


GCEC has resumed operations and includes a non-circulating research library open to visiting scholars, students, and the general public. There is also a resource center to exhibit the achievements of local African-Americans dating back to the late 1900’s. GCEC files contain biographical sketches, news articles, tape recordings, photographs, and letters of prominent African-Americans. The Center also serves as a meeting place for community groups, professional associations, and is available for brunches, book reviews, and receptions. African-American bus tours can also be arranged for family reunions and other visitors to Greenville.

Everyone is encouraged to visit the Center and take advantage of its library resources and view the displays during visiting hours. The Board of Directors is currently seeking support for the on-going maintenance of the Center. Annual membership for individuals is $15.00, $100.00 “Friend of the Center, and $250.00 for organizations. If you or your organization would like to contribute, please contact the center at 864-232-9162.

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