The “collection of antiquities” of the Piarist Grammar School was the predecessor of the Museum from the beginning of the 1900s. In 1913, the town councillor István Halis was appointed Librarian and Museum Director who collected books and antiquities in his office until 1919. Then, two rooms were made available for this purpose at the Town Hall. Although a decision was made on the establishment of the Museum during the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 – even its stamp was made – we do not have any information about the activities which were carried out for some years. In 1923, four rooms were equipped at the new grammar school at the address Sugár u. 13. in order to be used as a museum and library. István Halis was in charge of both collections until 1925. Then, the Piarist teachers István Sótonyi, dr. József Kerkay, Gyula Szakáll and József Grujber discharged the duties as a part-time job.
1949 can be considered as the year of foundation of the Museum in today’s sense of the term. It was then that the Museum was brought under state control; in 1950, it was even separated from the library. The collecting area of the country museum of Nagykanizsa was also designated, i.e. Southern Zala.
The Museum was led by dr. Imre Szentmihályi for some months after the nationalization. Then, dr. Edit Kerecsényi was entrusted with leading the establishment from 23 October 1950 onwards.
The Museum was taken over by the state at the beginning of 1951 and was given the name “György Thúry Museum” in the same year. The establishment began to develop rapidly and grew out of its rooms as a result of the collection of objects. Thus, it moved to a new building at the address Erzsébet tér 11. in 1952. Soon afterwards, a repository had to be set up in the house next door as well. In 1962, the Museum of Kanizsa was also taken over by the county council. It has still been operated as a county establishment these days.
For presenting the new accessions, the west wing of the building in Fő út was purchased by the Ministry of Culture in 1968 where the new permanent exhibition called “Forests and People in Zala” opened in autumn 1983. The exhibition was open to the public until the end of 1997. The seasonal exhibitions were held between 1981 and 1998 at the Municipal Picture Gallery, that the Museum was in charge of, to be found in the Ironmonger’s House.
The Museum has improved tremendously in the past decades. The textile objects of the ethnographic collection are among the most significant ones in Transdanubia; the archaeological collection has come at the quantity and quality to be found at the museums of the neighbourhood.
After the retirement of dr. Edit Kerecsényi, dr. László Horváth led the Museum from 1984 to February 2006 when the archaeologist Csilla Száraz was appointed Director of the Museum.
Currently, the establishment has 8 full-time employees (one archaeologist, one historian, one cultural manager, one restorer, two collection managers, one administrative employee and one cleaner) and 5 part-time employees (four custodians and one repairman).
The establishment occupied its new office and repository complex at the address Zrínyi utca 62. in the summer of 2000. At the same time, it moved out of the building at the address Erzsébet tér 11. and the Municipal Picture Gallery at the address Erzsébet tér 1. as well. The permanent exhibition “People, Roads and Relations” (The Millennia of Southern Zala) as well as the seasonal exhibitions can be visited on the premises at the address Fő út 5.