The Kretinga museum was opened on 12 July 1935. It was established by the teacher Juozas Žilvitis, who donated all his collections to the museum. During the war the museum was closed, but in 1945 it was reopened by the engineer Ignas Jablonskis. From 1977 to 1991 the museum was located in the Franciscan friary and later it was moved to the manor house of Count Tiškevičius.
The main collections were built up in 1956-1975 with the help of the historian Juozas Mickevičius. At present in its vaults the museum has 63,893 exhibits. They are divided into the following groups: archaeological, numismatic, ethnographic, textile, life in historic times, iconographic, document collections, printed matter, fine and applied arts, collections of decorations and medals, and small memorial architecture.
The museum holds a large collection of archaeological finds which tell us about prehistoric times, hoards of silver coins of the 15th-18th centuries, the tools of 18th-20th century farmers and craftsmen, household articles and furniture, and a collection of Shrovetide masks. Especially well decorated are spinning wheels, towel holders, chests and dressers and textile articles. Unique items include the 17th century wedding register of Salantai church, a letter written in 1761 by Duke M. J. Massalski to the Kretinga Magistrates, the 18th-19th century baptismal register of Kalnalis Church, and letters written by V. Mongirdas to his wife in 1941 in Reshoty concentration camp. The collection of printed matter includes many samples of printing in the Lithuanian language published during the prohibition years 1864-1904.
The best group of exhibits is the collection of iconography, including the photographs and albums of the Tiškevičiai family, a collection of First World War post-cards, and photographs and cards with views of old Kretinga. The most valuable collection includes old folk sculptures collected from devastated shrines, the pictures of the Stations of the Cross painted on wooden boards and brought from the Kretinga estate in the 17th century, the picture by Valentine de Boulogne “For Evangelists”, and “Madonna” painted by an unknown painter.
Exhibitions of manor house culture, folk art, cross-making craft, archaeology and history are held in the Tiškevičius manor house. The museum is famous for its Winter garden where visitors are fascinated by the unique plants from exotic countries. In the park the alleys of chestnut and lime trees remind us of the great history of the family. Tourists can also enjoy walking along the paths of the park, around the ponds, and sitting on the Stone of Love. The pride of the town is the Astronomic Calendar and Sundial (artist Rita Gorodeckienė).
The museum is visitor focused: everything is solid, compact and attractive. A well-organized system starts from the display rooms and leads to pleasant rest areas. The expositions and a variety of services attract about 80,000 visitors to the museum every year. The museum’s priorities have become investigative and educational activities, and the spread of tourist information. Since 2002 the museum has been involved in tourism development. It organizes folk art and craft camps, the works of which decorate the town and mark the region’s historic places.