The McKissick Museum is located at the head of the University of South Carolina Horseshoe in Columbia. It was completed in 1939 on the site of the original president’s house and initially served as a library. It is named for James Rion McKissick, a Union native and a 1905 graduate of the University of South Carolina, then called South Carolina College. McKissick later graduated from Harvard Law School and began practicing law in South Carolina in 1914. However, two years later he switched careers and entered journalism as editor of the Greenville News. In 1924 he was appointed to the University of South Carolina’s board of trustees and became the Dean of the School of Journalism in 1927. McKissick was named president of the University in 1936.
The university’s library was originally housed in the South Caroliniana Library, a building designed by Robert Mills in 1838. A century later, the present McKissick Museum was built by the Works Progress Administration as the campus’s main library while the South Caroliniana Library became a repository for South Carolina-related manuscripts and archives. McKissick died in September of 1944 from a heart attack, and his body lay in state in the new building. He was then buried in front of the South Caroliniana Library, and the new library was renamed the McKissick Memorial Library in his honor. In 1976, the school’s library moved into a new building, the present-day Thomas Cooper Library. The McKissick Memorial Library was rededicated as a museum in 1984, though a museum had operated here since 1973.
The McKissick Museum is home to many historical collections and Southern archives. The visitor’s center is also housed here, making it the University’s “front door.”