The McKissick Museum, located in the building after which it is named, celebrates Southern history and culture through changing and traveling exhibitions, educational programs, and research. Particular emphasis is placed on Southern folkways and traditions. The university established it in 1976, consolidating the various collections dispersed in different departments around campus into one location. As a result, the museum contains a wide variety of artifacts, various specimens, decorative and fine artwork. These include gemstones and minerals, moths and butterflies, quilts and other household textiles, art glass, alkaline-glazed stoneware, and Catawba pottery. Also included are materials relating to the university itself.
The university received its first collection (of minerals) in 1823. In the following decades the university acquired the wide variety of collections that constitute the museum's collection today.