The museum section of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History oversees and operates four historic sites and museums:

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.

History of the Museum

WVSM History Timeline

To read about the museum's history, click the Read More button.

The collection of the West Virginia State Museum finds its beginnings with the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society. The West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society was organized in the Senate Chamber of the State House in Charleston on January 30, 1890. When it was first created, the organization had limited state support but found its home to showcase its collection on the first floor of the capitol.

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. At this point, the museum exhibited artifacts that were once part of the West Virginia Building at the Columbian Exposition at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois in addition to the valuable collection of the Historical Society that were already on exhibit.

The next day, an article in the newspaper applauded the large turnout for the event as well as the efforts of Governor MacCorkle, Colonel Bob Carr, Colonel A.D. MacCorkle, and Captain John Baker White.

Both collections continued to be exhibited together and on Feburary 18, 1905, an act of legislature officially declared the collection of the Historical Society to be a part of the West Virginia State Museum. When this legislation to combine both collections was passed, additional funding and a new home for the museum was found.

The West Virginia State Museum moved to the Capitol Annex that had been completed in 1903. This move turned out to be a great move for the early museum collection, as it saved it from the 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. However, 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.

In June of 2009, new renovations for the West Virginia State Museum were completed and 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.

Also, what's up with those dressed Fleas?

Dressed Fleas
Company Store view from inside the museum

The West Virginia State Museum offers 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.


Further your West Virginia Studies with our Museum Education Programs!

You can also have a little fun with our County Jigsaw Puzzle, if you want an added challenge, change the difficulty settings.


West Virginia Museum at the Culture Center

To schedule a tour group with the West Virginia State Museum, contact Museum Education Coordinator, Nathan Barner at (304) 558-0220 ext 185 or email the Museum Education Staff

Culture Center, Capitol Complex Charleston, WV
Phone: (304) 558-0220
Email: wvmuseumed@wv.gov