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.
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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.
The museum was housed on the College of Charleston campus for many years. This right whale was the highlight of the collection and washed up in the Charleston harbor in the 1880s.
It can sometimes be easy to forget Charleston’s colonial history, particularly as a hub for modern cuisine and fashion, but the museum reminds us with an extensive collection of maps, documents, silverware, clothing and other artifacts from our time under the British.
Items in the museum to be sure to track down are the Hunley replica outside, the whale skeleton in the lobby, the vast collection of vintage gowns and the polar bear. They host many monthly events, especially for children and families, so be sure to check out their calendar.
If You Go
The Charleston Museum is open on Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 1 to 5 pm. 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. The museum is located at 360 Meeting Street. Free parking is available.