Two women, one standing and one seated wearing blue sweaters point at a computer screen that has a photograph of a painting on it.
Museum News

South Carolina State Museum Launches its First-Ever Online Collection Database

Museum’s art collection now available for the public to explore online

Search the Collection


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The South Carolina State Museum's art collection is now available to explore online allowing educators, students, researchers and others to explore portions of the museum’s collection digitally for the first time. The art collection features more than 4,500 pieces of fine and folk art, historic and modern pottery and ceramics, sculptures, contemporary works, and even topiaries. 

This project, made possible by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services' (IMLS) Museums for America grant and the South Carolina State Legislature, has been years in the making. While the material currently available through the online database is limited to works of art, the museum’s cultural history, science and technology and natural history collections will be added in the coming months with the majority made available online in time for the museum's 35th Anniversary Celebration in November 2023.

The online database includes high quality images enabling users to view the inscriptions of enslaved potter David Drake, or the artistry of painters such as Wenonah Bell and Brian Rutenburg – just a few of the many highlights to discover. Guests are invited to browse the collection or search for specific works by keyword, title, object name, or date range with advanced search functions also available.

Launching the online database is an important step in the museum’s Reimagine the Experience campaign which aims to feature more of the museum’s extensive collection and eventually renew over 150,000 square feet of exhibition, programmatic and collections storage space to better highlight the many fascinating stories and people throughout South Carolina’s history.



Learn More About the Collections Department


(Robyn Adams. Registrar South Carolina State Museum) “Objects hold a special place in our lives.”

(Paul Matheny. Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs, South Carolina State Museum) “They preserve our past and have the power to inspire and bring stories to light.”

(Robyn) “From billions year old meteorites,”

(Paul) “stunning pieces created by South Carolina artists and craftspeople,”

(Robyn) “and one-of-a-kind pieces of cultural history.”

(Paul) “Each object of the museum contains the tangible history of South Carolina- offering a connection to our past, present and future.”

(Robyn) “And what you see only scratches the surface.”

(Paul) “My name is Paul, and I'm the Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs here at the South Carolina State Museum.

(Robyn) “My name is Robyn and I'm the State Museum's registrar. My job is to coordinate the care of the collection. With limited space in the museum's galleries with over 1.1 million objects, specimens, artifacts and fossils within our care, most of the State Museum's collection remains in storage.”

(Paul) “Fine art, folk art, contemporary art- all created by South Carolina artists and craftspeople, and dating back as far as the 1500s.”

(Robyn) “Culturally significant pieces throughout South Carolina's history. And drawers upon drawers of ancient shark teeth, fossils and modern day specimens.”

(Paul) “These invaluable objects are stored, preserved, cataloged and cared for. Ensuring artifacts like this face vessel, created by an enslaved craftsperson from the Edgefield area, can bring the compelling, diverse stories of South Carolina to life for many years down the road.”

(Robyn) “Recently, the State Museum has been awarded a series of grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received funding from the South Carolina State Legislature to assist in digitizing our collection.”

(Paul) “This not only improves our quality of care for the collection, but also increases access for researchers, educators and the public.”

(Robyn) “Each object is carefully handled, photographed, measured, and all details noted about its condition, background, maker, and whether it's on loan, a purchase, or a donation. Then it is carefully placed in storage or in the museum galleries for you to see.”

(Paul) “Thanks to these efforts, portions of our collection are now accessible online for you to explore!”


About IMLS: The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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