The beginning of the Klaipėda Museum is related to the events of 1924, when the Lithuanian and German intelligentsia of the region founded the Society of the Regional Museum of Klaipėda “Memeler Landesmuseum e.V.”. 20 June 1924, the date of the society’s general—sometimes also known as the constituent—meeting, is considered to be the museum’s birthday (the society’s statutes were approved on 20 July 1924, and it was officially included in the registry of societies on 24 March 1925). Dr V. Gaigalaitis was elected as a chairman of the society, Dr Erich Scheu was elected as a vice-chairman, Dr Fritz Ambrosius, a teacher at the gymnasium, was elected as a secretary, and Dr J. Žilius as his assistant. J. Stikliorius became the society’s treasurer, Dr Kemp, head of the city library, became the librarian, and Major P. Tarasenka, an archaeology enthusiast, became the manager of the museum. Unfortunately, after a few years, the Germans withdrew from the society and the management of the museum. The museum had no permanent premises, and its collections were scarce: in 1931 it had 84 exhibits, in 1934 – 965, in 1938 – 1545. The majority of the exhibits consisted of archaeological finds and numismatic collection. Among the archaeological exhibits, the most abundant one was a collection of about 600 pieces of Iron Age articles (weapons, beads, brooches, bracelets, torcs, rings, knives, etc., from Aukštkiemis, Lumpėnai, Vilkiškiai and other old cemeteries). Roman coins from the 2nd – 3rd centuries AD, were considered to be the highlight of the numismatic collection.
The last entry in the museum’s diary is dated 12 March 1939. Most of the pre-war collections have been lost, and the museum’s collections now contain only a few tens of the old museum’s exhibits (mostly archaeological).
In 1948, there were urgings in the Klaipėda press for the restoration of the Klaipėda Museum. On 5 February 1949, G. Christoforova was appointed as its first director, and in March, J. Alseika was appointed as its first scientific collaborator. The museum was renamed as the Klaipėda Regional Studies Museum. In 1950, it received three rooms in a building built in 1855 at 7 Liepų Street, and eight years later it took over the whole building. During the 1960 – 1962 reconstruction, a second floor was added and the building got its present shape. For many years, the museum’s administration, personnel and funds were housed here, but in autumn 2013 they were moved to new premises in Didžioji Vandens Street.
In 1950, the first exposition was arranged. In that year, the museum that had 1542 exhibits was visited by 15 208 visitors. When the Curonian Spit History Museum, a branch of the museum, was established in Nida in 1966, all the exhibits related to the Curonian Spit and the lagoon were transferred there. In 1967, the Marine Department, managed by A. Každailis, was established in the Klaipėda Regional Studies Museum, which eventually grew into an independent Lithuanian Sea Museum.
Since 1954, the museum began to organise trips to collect exhibits, and over time began to register archaeological monuments of the Klaipėda district, to carry out exploratory archaeological excavations, and to organise scientific expeditions to the Kaliningrad region. In 1955, the museum had 2,791 exhibits, and in 1980 it had about 19,000.
On 17 June 1988, the Klaipėda City Executive Committee decided to rename Klaipėda Regional Studies Museum as the History Museum of Lithuania Minor and to hand over to it the buildings in the Old Town, Didžioji Vandens Street. Over a few years, a permanent exposition has been arranged here, presenting the historical past of Lithuania Minor and Klaipėda Region in particular.
Over time, the museum has expanded and grown, and separate subdivisions have emerged:
- In 1992, The Blacksmith’s Museum was opened near the Old Market, on Šaltkalvių Street.
- In 2002, The Castle Museum was opened in the Prince Friedrich postern on the site of an old Klaipėda Castle, and up to the present day, new spaces are added: in 2006 – the continuation of the exposition in the postern of Prince Karl bastion, in 2018 – Museum 39/45, in 2021 – the archaeological exposition “Curtain Wall”.
- Since 2006, the History Museum of Lithuania Minor has been in charge of The Klaipėda Sculpture Park, maintenance and restoration of the sculptures, organisation of events and integration of the park into the city’s cultural activities and tourism.
- In 2014, The Resistance and Deportation Exposition was arranged in the building of Klaipėda Territorial Customs, in the basement of the former Soviet State Security (KGB) subunit of Klaipėda.
The History Museum of Lithuania Minor currently has departments of Archaeology and Restoration, Ethnography, Fund Accounting and Protection, History, Education and Public Relations.