About The Charleston Museum
The Charleston Museum chronicles the history of Charleston and the coastal region of South Carolina in the United States. Exhibits include a history of South Carolina’s Lowcountry from the time of early natives, a collection of weapons from the 1750s onwards and the story of Charleston during the American Civil War.
There is also a natural history exhibition as well as some more eclectic pieces such as an ancient Egyptian collection which includes a mummy. It is worth noting that the Charleston Museum has an interesting history of its own. Founded in 1773, the museum is said to be the oldest in the country.
The Charleston Museum history
The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 and has since been regarded as ‘America’s First Museum’. Inspired by the British Museum, the Charleston Museum was established by Charleston Library Society on the eve of the American Revolution. The museum was associated with many distinguished South Carolinians and scientific figures and opened to the public in 1824.
The museum gradually collected an impressive selection of ethnological and zoological objects, although had to close during the Civil War. In 1920 the museum hired Laura Bragg as its director and she became the first woman to direct a publicly funded art museum in America.
The museum’s current building was completed in 1980, and since also acquired 2 historic house museums: Heyward-Washington House owned by signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward, and where George Washington stayed in 1792; the Joseph Manigault House, a federal style home from the early 19th century.
The Charleston Museum today
Today, the Charleston Museum continues to offer the public a rich variety of Southern history and is open between 9am and 5pm Monday through Saturday. The museum’s permanent exhibitions include those exploring massive textile collections of clothes and silver, as well as ‘The Armoury’ boasting weapons from 1750 onwards, and ‘Becoming Americans: Charleston in the Revolution’.
There is also the Bunting Natural History Gallery with fossils and geological specimens telling the story of Lowcountry natural history over millions of years. The museum also offers ‘Kidstory’, a section that presents the history of Charleston to young people through more interactive, hands-on exhibits. Overall, you can spend between an hour or 2 exploring the museum before stepping outside to see the Civil War submarine model.
Getting to The Charleston Museum
Located within historic Charleston, the Charleston Museum is found just off route 26, exiting onto E. Bay Street. Otherwise, get the 7, 20, 31, 33, 211, C32, XP1, XP2 or XP3 bus that stops directly outside the museum. There is car parking on Ann Street around the corner.