By John Temple Ligon
Catherine Horne was born in Chesterfield, S.C. Her father was a businessman with many commercial interests, and her mother was a third- grade school teacher. Horne stayed in Chesterfield through high school, where she graduated valedictorian.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C., which offered her opportunities to study the decorative arts in Europe. After college graduation, she came to USC in Columbia for her master’s in art history, again with a focus on the decorative arts.
Horne took three years to complete the requirements for her master’s degree because she took opportunities to study abroad, in particular the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and she worked in the McKissick Museum on the Horseshoe.
She spent a large block of time studying South Carolina alkaline glazed stoneware, what is ordinarily called Edgefield Pottery. She also studied porcelain from the early 1700s, what was imported into Charleston when Charleston was one of the top four affluent cities in a class with Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
In the early 1980s, Horne was able to take advantage of a major federal grant at the McKissick Museum and help produce an exhibition in her field. The catalogue for the exhibition was titled “Crossroads of Clay,” and her concurrent book published at the University of Georgia Press was Great and Noble Jar.
When she left McKissick in the early 1990s, Horne was the director of public services and the chief curator. She was also the president of the S.C. Federation of Museums. Upon leaving, though, she preferred to work mostly by herself as a consultant for non- profits. At the time, her children were taking a lot of attention.
Horne and her husband Paul have two children: Adams, a freshman at Hampden- Sydney College in Virginia, and Mary Catherine, a sophomore at A.C. Flora High School.
Although Horne had developed a thriving consultancy, she accepted the offer to become CEO from the early organizers of the Columbia children’s museum, later named EdVenture, the largest children’s museum in the South. Horne began to catch up on the groundwork they had been laying with discovery trips to children’s museums around the country.
Houston and Chicago, for two prime examples, had recently built wonderful facilities, but the Columbia crowd wanted to learn what worked, what didn’t, and create their own. They had been doing their homework in earnest since 1993 when they hired Horne in 1996.
Through 1998, Horne, her staff, and their volunteers had analyzed and directed fund raising strategies, settled on the site, and structured the education program. By the end of the year, they had more than $1 million in personal gifts from their board for a total take of $1.8 million.
The next year, 1999, was dedicated to design, working with the Haislip architectural firm in Memphis, a noted museum design outfit. Fund raising, meanwhile, kept pace and even surpassed the goal of $7.5 million. Horne had $19.2 million as the first phase of construction kicked in.
After 18 months on site work, the buildiing came out of the ground in the late summer of 2002 and was completed by November 2003 by Shlco of Greenville.
Since 2004, EdVenture, the largest children’s museum in the South, has seen a steady growth in attendance, never tapering off from opening excitement. It has doubled its operating budget to $3.5 million.
With expanding education programs, EdVenture reaches out all over the state, to include seven elementary schools along the notoriously under- funded I-95 corridor. Every week, EdVenture accommodates more than 400 children with its after- school programs inside the building.