The first museum dedicated to the Palmetto State's military tradition opened in 1981 thanks to the vision of South Carolina National Guard Colonel Hugh M. McLauren III. Located in Sumter and occupying only 960 square feet, the "National Guard Museum and State Weapons Collection" was chartered under State law but not formally recognized by the National Guard Bureau and the US Army Center for Military History until 1986.
A decade later, South Carolina's Adjutant General – Major General Stanhope S. Spears – made two important decisions: (1) the Museum should be centrally located in Columbia; and (2) the Museum would be the official repository of South Carolina’s military history.
On May 21, 1998, the name was more accurately changed to the "South Carolina Military Museum" and signed into law by then Governor David Beasley. Under the guidance of newly appointed Director Ewell G. "Buddy" Sturgis, a small staff and a host of volunteers labored tirelessly to transform two empty motor pool buildings into a museum worthy of its mission.
On February 6, 2007, the South Carolina Military Museum officially opened the doors of its first building to the public. On June 7, 2014, the second building was finally christened thereby making the Museum the largest land-based military museum in the State and one of the premiere National Guard museums in the country.
Featuring a vast array of authentic and period firearms, edged weapons, uniforms, helmets, artillery pieces, and armored fighting vehicles, both buildings of the South Carolina Military Museum trace the evolution of the citizen-soldier from the earliest militias to their modern descendants: the South Carolina National Guard. In so doing, the Museum covers the complete military history of our State from the time British boots first touched Carolina soil to present-day operations worldwide.