Charleston, SC has some of the best museums in the world. Everything form historic museums, art museums, house museums and more. Below you’ll find our list of Charleston’s must see museums that can’t be missed!
International African American Museum
Charleston’s newest museum | opens January 2023! The International African American Museum will explore cultures and knowledge systems retained and adapted by Africans in the Americas, and the diverse journeys and achievements of these individuals and their descendants in South Carolina, the United States, and throughout the African Diaspora.
The Gibbes Museum enhances lives through art by engaging people of every background and experience with art and artists of enduring quality, by collecting and preserving art that touches Charleston, and by providing opportunities to learn, to discover, to enjoy, and to be inspired by the creative process.
The Gibbes Museum of Art is home to the foremost collection of American art that incorporates the story of Charleston. The Museum connects the city and region’s artistic past to a vibrant contemporary art scene. This is what we believe.
The Charleston Museum
Founded in 1773 and commonly regarded as “America’s First Museum,” The Charleston Museum is a 501(c)(3) 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.
Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
Completed in 1771, the Old Exchange Building is a Charleston landmark and the site of some of the most important events in South Carolina history. Over the last two and a half centuries, the building has been a commercial exchange, custom house, post office, city hall, military headquarters, and museum.
Previously the property of the British, United States, Confederate, and Charleston city governments, the Old Exchange Building is today owned by the South Carolina State Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and operated by the City of Charleston.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
Patriots Point Development Authority was established in the 1970s to develop a naval & maritime museum on Charleston Harbor with the World War II aircraft carrier, USS YORKTOWN as its centerpiece. It’s also home to the Patriots Point Museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships, the Cold War Memorial and the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S., the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the agency’s official Medal of Honor Museum.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum serves as a national destination of excellence for the preservation and education of current and future generations about America’s history, traditions and values.
Old Slave Mart Museum
The Old Slave Mart is a building located at 6 Chalmers Street in Charleston, South Carolina that once housed an antebellum slave auction gallery. Constructed in 1859, the building is believed to be the last extant slave auction facility in South Carolina. In 1975, the Old Slave Mart was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its role in Charleston’s African-American history. Today, the building houses the Old Slave Mart Museum.
The Old Slave Mart was originally part of a slave market known as Ryan’s Slave Mart, which covered a large enclosed lot between Chalmers and Queen Streets. The market was established in 1856 by Charleston City Councilman Thomas Ryan, after a citywide ban on public slave auctions made private facilities necessary. Slave auctions were held at the site until approximately 1863; in 1865, the Union Army occupied Charleston and closed Ryan’s Mart. The Old Slave Mart Museum has operated on and off since 1938.
South Carolina Historical Society Museum
As the state’s oldest historical society, our mission is to expand, preserve, and make accessible our invaluable collection, and to encourage interest in the rich history of our state. SC Historical Society Museum