Historic Charleston Foundation’s efforts to preserve Charleston’s material culture as well as its built environment began in 1955 with the purchase of the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, 51 Meeting Street. Since that time, the Foundation has assembled a collection of more than 6,000 artifacts. Many of the key decorative and fine art holdings have local provenances and were made in the Lowcountry. The collection of early objects documents Charleston’s transformation from colonial outpost to a grand cosmopolitan city, while nineteenth century objects, including the Aiken-Rhett family collection, enable the Foundation to also tell the story of antebellum and post-Civil War Charleston.
The Aiken family library, containing more than 2000 volumes mostly published in the 1800s, has recently been transferred to the Charleston Library Society archives and placed on long-term loan. Many of the books are signed by family members and were purchased on their travels through Europe.