A Look Inside America’s First Museum

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum has been discovering, preserving, interpreting, celebrating, and sharing ever since.

The Charleston Museum – “America’s First Museum”

Founded in 1773 and commonly regarded as “America’s First Museum,” The Charleston Museum is a nonprofit organization, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Inspired in part by the creation of the British Museum, the Museum was established by the Charleston Library Society on the eve of the American Revolution and its early history was characterized by association with distinguished South Carolinians and scientific figures including Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Reverend John Bachman and John J. Audubon.

The Museum continued to develop prominent collections of ethnological and zoological specimens, which Harvard scientist Louis Aggasiz declared in 1852 to be among the finest in America. Operations were temporarily suspended due to the Civil War, but began again shortly afterward. Progressively acquired since the late 18th century, the Museum’s collections now represent the most comprehensive assemblage of South Carolina materials in the nation. Focusing on the South Carolina Lowcountry, modern collecting emphases include natural history, historical material culture and both documentary and photographic resources.

Permanent Exhibits

Bunting Natural History Gallery

In the Bunting Natural History Gallery, experience an extraordinary presentation of fossils, specimens, bird and animal mounts, and geologic examples, which together tell the story of Lowcountry natural history. Learn about the diverse array of creatures that once called this area home and the remarkable changes that have taken place in its landscape over hundreds of millions of years.

Lowcountry History Hall

In the Lowcountry History Hall, see materials related to the Native Americans who first inhabited the South Carolina Lowcountry as well as the colonists and enslaved African Americans who transformed the region into an agricultural empire.

The Armory

In the Museum’s Armory, see excellent examples of historic weaponry, dating from 1750 to the twentieth century, with uses that ranged from military to more personal applications such as hunting and dueling.

Becoming Americans

In Becoming Americans, explore Charleston’s important role in the American Revolution, from protest to independence.

City Under Siege

In City Under Siege, discover how Charlestonians endured the greatest conflict in American history.

Early Days

In the Early Days gallery, see exotic collections from around the world, representative of the Museum’s nineteenth century cosmopolitan collecting focus.


Kidstory is a fun and exciting, hands-on exhibit for children, where the fascinating history of Charleston and the Lowcountry comes alive.

Historic Textiles

In the Historic Textiles Gallery, the Museum features regularly rotating exhibits from its rich historic textiles and clothing collection, one of the finest in the southeastern United States.

Charleston Silver

In the Loeblein Gallery of Charleston Silver discover the impressive work of the South’s finest craftsmen and women, from the colonial era through the Victorian Age.


360 Meeting St.
Charleston, SC 29403