Purpose of the West Virginia State Museum
The West Virginia State Museum is dedicated to inspiring, educating and enriching the lives of the public by instilling a deeper understanding and sense of pride through the collection, preservation and exhibition of diverse cultural and historic traditions, focusing on every aspect of West Virginia history, culture, art, paleontology, archaeology and geology from all geographic regions – representing the people, land and industries.
Please visit our Museum Education webpage for more information and resources for teachers, homeschoolers, and the public.
The collection of the West Virginia State Museum finds its beginnings with the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society which was organized in the Senate Chamber of the State House in Charleston on January 30, 1890. At this time it was an organization with limited state support but now with a home on the first floor of the capitol to showcase its collection.
On April 3, 1894, Governor William A. MacCorkle held a reception to announce the opening of the West Virginia State Museum in the 1885 West Virginia State Capitol building located at the head of Capitol Street in downtown Charleston. The museum contained the artifacts on exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, as well as exhibiting the valuable collection of the Historical Society already on exhibit. An article the next day in the newspaper applauded a large turnout for the event and the efforts of Governor MacCorkle, Colonel Bob Carr, Colonel A.D. MacCorkle and Captain John Baker White. These collections continued to be exhibited together when on February 18, 1905, by an act of the legislature, those artifacts from the Historical Society legally became part of the West Virginia State Museum.
When the legislation was passed to combine the two collections, additional funding and a new residence for the state museum was found. The museum moved to the Capitol Annex which had been completed in 1903. It turned out to be a great move for the early museum collection and saved it from the capitol fire of 1921.
When the 1932 West Virginia State Capitol building designed by Cass Gilbert was completed, the collection of the state museum was placed on exhibit in the basement. By the early 1970s it was determined that the State Museum had outgrown its space in the Capitol building and needed its own facility to preserve and showcase the wonderful treasures. On July 11, 1976, the West Virginia Science and Culture Center opened with beautiful state of the art exhibitions of history and culture. After 30 some years the collection is still housed in this modern facility that is environmentally controlled. In June of 2009, the newly renovated West Virginia State Museum opens with exhibitions and art that have been updated with modern conservation mounts, scenic beauty and architectural design elements that will help to preserve the collection for generations to come.