The Charleston Museum is known as “America’s First Museum,” having been founded in 1773. Charleston was still a British colony, so the collection was mostly pieces from Europe. It was inspired by the famous British Museum, founded 20 years prior, which explains the replicas of sarcophagi and Egyptian artifacts.
The museum was housed on the College of Charleston campus for many years before opening in a new brick building across the street from the visitor’s center.
What to See at the Charleston Museum
Upon entering the museum, you are greeted by Charity. The wooden statue above was the Charleston Orphan House in the 1800s, majestically watching over the city’s youth. This right whale was the highlight of the collection and washed up in the Charleston harbor in the 1880s.
The Lowcountry History Hall focuses on the artifacts related to the Native American and enslaved African Americans that lived in early Charleston, along with European colonists. Items on display include pottery, tools, and woven sweetgrass baskets.
The museum has an extensive collection of maps, documents, silverware, clothing, and other artifacts from the time under the British. The Armory exhibit has weaponry dating back to the 1700s. Admire the incredible colors of the Historic Textiles on display.
The Natural History exhibit features an Egyptian mummy, a stuffed polar bear, and fossils of prehistoric creatures. The Kidstory exhibit distills the history of Charleston into interactive displays for young visitors. Don’t forget about the Hunley replica outside.
Exhibits and Events at the Charleston Museum
The Charleston Museum hosts many monthly events, especially for children and families, so be sure to check out their calendar. There are also rotating exhibits like one about antique wedding attire,
Tips for Visiting the Charleston Museum
The Charleston Museum is located at 360 Meeting Street. It is open on Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 1 to 5 pm. Free parking is available at the museum along with across the street at the visitor’s center.
Visiting the museum costs $12, with combination tickets available for the Joseph Manigault House and the Heyward-Washington House. You can also go with the City Tour and Museum Combo. After your visit, check out nearby attractions like the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.
Where to Eat Near the Charleston Museum
Grab a bite nearby by walking a few blocks to King Street. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is a local favorite but space is tight. Order your biscuit sandwich to-go and enjoy it on a shaded park bench near the museum.
Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale is another favorite, offering heaping portions of nachos, burritos, rice bowls, tacos, and quesadillas. For a more upscale meal, sit down at Darling Oyster Bar, known for seafood dishes like crab pasta, fried shrimp, and oysters on the half shell.
Where to Stay Near the Charleston Museum
The Hampton Inn Charleston-Historic District is right across the street from the Charleston Museum and is convenient to the rest of the city. The Dewberry Charleston is also nearby, with butler services, a trendy shop, and a popular restaurant.