During its long history, the Charleston Museum has moved literally all over town. It’s currently housed in a noticeably modern building, but make no mistake: The Charleston Museum (360 Meeting St., 843/722-2996, www.charlestonmuseum.org , Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 1–5 p.m., $10 adults, $5 children, combo tickets to Heyward-Washington  and/or Manigault Houses  available) is the nation’s oldest museum, founded in 1773. It strives to stay as fresh and relevant as any new museum, with a rotating schedule of special exhibits in addition to its very eclectic permanent collection.
For a long time the Charleston Museum was the only place to get a glimpse of the CSS Hunley,  albeit just a fanciful replica in front of the main entrance. (Now you can see the real thing at its conservation site in North Charleston , and it’s even smaller than the replica would indicate.)
Much of the Charleston Museum’s collection focuses on aspects of everyday life of Charlestonians from aristocracy to slaves, like utensils, clothing, and furniture. There are quirks as well, such as the Egyptian mummy and the fine lady’s fan made out of turkey feathers.
A particular and possibly surprising specialty includes work and research by noted regional naturalists like John James Audubon, André Michaux, and Mark Catesby. There are also numerous exhibits chronicling the local history of Native Americans and African Americans. There’s something for children too, in the hands-on, interactive “Kidstory.”
The location is particularly convenient, being close not only to the excellent Charleston Visitors Center and its equally excellent parking garage, but to the Joseph Manigault House  (which the Museum runs), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry , and the Gibbes Museum of Art .