Founded in 1977 by its first curator, Dr. William W. Savage, the Museum of Education was established as a repository for archives, references, and artifacts related to the culture of educational life in South Carolina. It later expanded to house selected archival collections related to education throughout the United States and to include lecture series, catalog publication, oral history recording projects, and researcher services. The museum is funded by the College of Education, University of South Carolina, and is housed with the college in Wardlaw Hall on the main campus in Columbia. Its facilities include a closed archival area, a research area, an exhibition area, and a reference room. The museum is staffed by a director, who is a faculty member in the College of Education, and by student assistants. It is open to the public during the university semesters and at other times upon request.
Most prominent among the archival collections of the museum is a school textbook collection of approximately seven thousand volumes, primarily those used by South Carolina students, dating back to 1789. The higher education catalog and yearbook collection includes academic catalogs and student yearbooks from more than fifty postsecondary schools in South Carolina, starting in the nineteenth century. Noteworthy among the national collections is the John B. Hawley postcard collection, approximately twenty thousand postcards depicting scenes at more than fifteen hundred institutions of higher education. Other special collections include biographical files of South Carolina educators, extinct schools files, photographic files of school and college buildings, and publications of state and school district offices. The professional papers of noteworthy educators include those of former Sarah Lawrence College president Harold Taylor, Black Mountain College founder and former rector John Andrew Rice, and former Columbia College president John Andrew Rice, Sr.