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.
We offer a variety of free tours and activities. The tours range from self-guided to in-depth discovery tours. Contact the Education Coordinator, Nathan Barner, via email or telephone (304) 558-0220 ext. 185, to find the right tour program for you and your students.
The Show Path is an approximately 45-minute tour through West Virginia history from prehistory all the way up to the 21st century. Vistors are immersed in each time and place as history comes alive through first-person accounts and dynamic re-creations of pivotal events and places in the state's past. 26 Discovery Rooms featuring artifacts, artwork, stories, music, film clips are connected to the Show Path. Two Connections Rooms allow visitors to learn even more about West Virginia. Touchscreens within these rooms provide the opportunity to explore photographs, documents, journal articles, and additional information about the state's deep cultural roots and rich history. For an overview of the museum and its layout, view our museum map: Museum Map (English) and Mapa del museo (Spanish), or check out the video tour from WVPBS.
History of the Museum
The Culture Center
January 30, 1890
The West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society organized in the Senate Chamber of the State House in Charleston on January 30, 1890. Initially, the organization had limited state support but was given a home on the first floor of the capitol to showcase its collection.
Dr. John P. Hale, a founding member and president of the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society
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 exhibited artifacts that were once part of the West Virginia Building at the Columbian Expoisiton at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois in addition to the valuable collection of the Historical Society already on exhibit. The next day, an article in the newspaper applauded the large turnout for the event and for the efforts of Governor MacCorkle, Colonel Bob Carr, Colonel A.D. MacCorkle, and Captain John Baker White. Both collections continue to be exhibited together.
Governor William A. MacCorkle
February 18, 1905
An act of legislature officially declared the collection of the Historical Society to be a part of the West Virginia State Museum. The legislation to combine both collections passed and included additional funding and a new home for the museum. The West Virginia State Museum moved to the Capitol Annex that had been completed in 1903. This move was a great move for the early museum collection as it saved it from capitol fire of 1921. Once Cass Gilbert's 1932 design of the West Virginia State Capitol was completed, the museum's collection was placed on exhibit in the basement.
The museum in the basement of the capitol
July 11, 1976
By the early 1970s, it was determined that the State Museum had outgrown its space in the Capitol building's basement and needed its own facility where it could continue to preserve and showcase the wonderful treasures of its collection.
On July 11, 1976, the West Virginia Science and Culture Center opened with beautiful state of the art exhibitions of history and culture. To this day, the collection is still housed in this environmentally-controlled modern facility.
Aerial view of construction of the Culture Center under construction in 1973
In June of 2009, new renovations for the West Virginia State Museum were completed and the museum re-opened its exhibitions and art displays with updated, modern conservation mounts, scenic beauty, and architectural design elements that will help to preserve the collection for generations to come.
The Culture Center
Further your West Virginia Studies with our Museum Education Programs!