The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 while South Carolina was yet a British colony. Now a modern 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, the Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
Inspired in part by the creation of the British Museum (1753), the Museum was established in 1773 by the Charleston Library Society and is commonly regarded as America's first museum. 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. Many of the original collections were destroyed by fire in 1778 and operations were suspended during the American Revolution; however, collecting resumed in the 1790s.
First opened to the public in 1824, the Museum developed prominent collections declared in 1852 by Harvard scientist Louis Aggasiz to be among the finest in America. Operations were temporarily suspended due to the Civil War, but began again shortly after the conflict. Progressively acquired from the late 18th century to the present, the Museum's collections now present the oldest-acquired and the most comprehensive assemblage of South Carolina materials in the nation. Modern collecting emphases include natural science, ornithology, historical material culture and both documentary and photographic resources.
"To document and explain the natural and cultural history of Charleston and the South Carolina coastal region through the maintenance, improvement and expansion of collections documenting the natural forms and material culture of this region."
Heyward-Washington House - "Charleston's Revolutionary War House"
Built in 1772, The Heyward-Washington House was the town-home of Thomas Heyward, Jr., Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington's temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791. Furnished with magnificent Charleston-made furniture, the collection includes the priceless Holmes Bookcase, considered to be the finest example of American-made furniture in existence today. The exquisite formal garden is comprised of plants available to Charlestonians during that period. Located in the original walled portion of the city, the neighborhood was used by Dubose Heyward as the setting for Porgy and Bess.
Joseph Manigault House - "Charleston's Huguenot House"
The Joseph Manigault House, built in 1803, is a premier example of Adam-style, or Federal, architecture. Designed by gentleman architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, the house is one of the most distinguished in the city, capturing the lifestyle of a wealthy, rice-planting family. The interior reflects an outstanding collection of American, English and French furnishings of the period. A charming Gate Temple is the focus of the period Garden.
The Dill Sanctuary - located on James Island contains assorted habitats for wildlife and numerous cultural features including three earthen Confederate batteries and prehistoric, colonial, antebellum, and postbellum archaeological sites. The Dill Sanctuary has been protected for purposes of preservation, wildlife enhancement, research and education, and is used only for Museum-sponsored programs. Habitat has been enhanced by creation of a six-acre wildlife pond, with three nesting islands, which provides a reliable source of fresh water for animals and nesting sites for both migratory and resident birds. 2001 saw the construction of the Dill Education Center and bathroom facilities which hosts Museum education programs.
Museum Director: John R. Brumgardt, PhD
Assistant Director: Carl Borick
Board of Trustees President: John Rashford, PhD
Lowcountry Textiles, including costumes, quilts, and needlework
South Carolina Ceramics
Archives - Documentary and Photographic Resources
South Carolina Ornithology
Nineteenth Century Firearms
Museum - Monday-Saturday 9-5, Sunday 1-5
Historic Houses - Monday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5
Museum - $10/adults, $5/children 4-12, children 3 and under free
Historic Houses - $10 adults, $5/children 4-12, children 3 and under free
Group rates and discounted multi-site tickets available
Prices subject to change
Rachel Giesy Chesser
PR & Events Coordinator
(843) 722-2996 ext. 235
(843) 722-1784 fax
for children's programs:
(843) 722-2996 ext. 236
(843) 722-6270 fax