After The Charleston Museum’s founding in 1773 by the Charleston Library Society, it was subsequently overseen by a variety of local organizations. In 1907, Charleston’s city council offered the newly built Thomson Auditorium on Rutledge Avenue to house the growing institution.
By the 1970s, the grand building that housed the Museum had fallen into serious disrepair. With the welfare of the collections threatened, the collections were moved to a new location at 360 Meeting Street where it continues today to educate the people of our community and visitors from around the world. The Early Days allows visitors to look back on the dedication and devotion given to America's First Museum over the years.
After The Charleston Museum’s founding in 1773 by the Charleston Library Society, it was subsequently overseen by the Library Society, the Literary and Philosophical Society of South Carolina, the Medical College of South Carolina, and the College of Charleston. Under the auspices of the College, it was managed by various curators, including Professor Francis S. Holmes, who cared for the collections during the Civil War, and Professor Gabriel E. Manigault, who prepared and mounted the right whale skeleton still exhibited today.
In 1907, Charleston’s city council offered the newly built Thomson Auditorium on Rutledge Avenue to house the Museum and provided increased appropriations to support the growing institution. Under the leadership of Paul Marshall Rea, the Museum’s first modern director, it became an independent organization in 1915. Laura Bragg, its first and only female director, and E. Milby Burton, its longest serving director, supported by an army of curators and volunteers, continued the expansion of exhibits and educational programs and fashioned the Museum into a much loved cultural institution in the Charleston community.
By the 1970s, the grand building that housed the Museum had fallen into serious disrepair and the welfare of the collections was threatened. A bond issue, passed in 1974, generated the necessary funds for a new facility and in 1979 the cornerstone was installed. Under the directorship of Donald Herold, the collections were moved to the new location at 360 Meeting Street and the Museum opened once again to the community in April 1980.
Unfortunately, in October of 1981, a fire, reportedly seen from 15 miles away, destroyed the old building leaving only the portico with four columns as a remembrance. Although the Thomson Auditorium is gone, the Museum, in its modern facility, continues to preserve and exhibit Lowcountry heritage and educate the people of our community and visitors from around the world.
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.
In the Lowcountry History Hall, see materials relating to the Native Americans who first inhabited the Lowcountry and the African American and European settlers who transformed the region into an agricultural empire.
In the Natural History gallery you will see an extraordinary array of birds, reptiles and mammals that have called the South Carolina Lowcountry home since prehistory, including contributions from noted naturalists.