National and social movements in the second half of the 19th century launched active efforts to establish local cultural institutions in many regions.
In Orava, there were two major centers of cultural activities: Dolný Kubín and Oravský Podzámok. In Dolný Kubín, thanks to Leopold Bruck, Pavel Zoch, Juraj Matúška and some others, a special association called Vychovávateľská spoločnosť oravského bratstva (Educational Society of Orava Brotherhood) was active in the years 1837 – 1848. It provided training for teachers and junior teachers. Through them, acquired knowledge and information were passed to students. The aim of the society was to spread knowledge amongst people and to improve the education situation in Orava.
A collector of books, Vavrinec Čaplovič, donated the entire collection to his homeland of Orava in 1839. It contained more than 20000 books and different museum items such as maps, paintings, coins, medical, mathematical and scientific tools and instruments. Finally, Dolný Kubín became the seat of the Čaplovič Library.
In the same year, a social organization Učená spoločnosť milovníkov knižnice Vavrinca Čaploviča (Educated society of the Čaplovič Library Lovers) was established. It focused on professional and educational activities, and in fact, followed the same aims as Matica Slovenská did few years later – although the society was focused only on inhabitants of Orava region. In the early sixties, thanks to Daniel Szontagh, the Society of Čaplovič Library was established. However, its activities stopped after only two decades. In the following period, the library worked as a public institution under the administration of Orava County. In 1905 – 1911, a new building was built for the needs of the library.
The other center of cultural and museum tendencies was Oravský Podzámok. Historical landmark of the region, Orava Castle, became a suitable place for storing collections.
In 1862, Count Edmund Zichy became the director of Orava compossessorate. He initiated a structural reorganization of the estate. Legal agenda was given to Mikuláš Kubíni and major changes were put into practice by a well-known forester William Rowland. He mainly focused on professional training of the staff in the forestry sector. Among other things, he taught them to use technical equipment and to recognize beneficial and harmful animals. He often used various objects and visual aids – dissected animals, wooden models of technical equipment located in the Orava manor (washboards, mills, presses, bridge structures, ponds or wooden rafts). This collection of models and objects later became a cornerstone of the future funds of the museum in the castle.
In 1867, William Rowland participated at the economic and forestry exhibition in Budapest where some objects were presented. Later, models and dissected animals were displayed in empty rooms of the castle and made accessible to general public.
In 1868, as it is stated by William Rowland himself, the Museum of the Orava manor was founded. Collections of the museum, which was later renamed to the Museum of Orava Compossessorate, were gradually expanding. Various items of different fields were added. Natural science section was built mostly by William Rowland, Jozef Guber and Anton Kocyan. Mikuláš Kubíni was responsible for the archaeological part. He also performed field research of prehistoric findings in Orava and did a lot of valuable archive work. In the years 1882-1886, he organized archaeological excavations at his own expense. Thanks to him, collections were enriched with the treasure of gold and silver coins dating back to the barbaric age.
Among original artifacts were also several objects from the castle armory. In the years 1906 - 1912, the interior of the central part, the Corvinus Palace, was restored and renovated. Rooms were decorated with copies of historical furnishing, presenting the aesthetic style of medieval living.
In 1925, a gathering of people interested in the renewal of museum activities was held in Oravský Podzámok (Pavol Florek, Mikuláš Kubíni, Ján Smetanay, Štefan Matuška, etc.). They founded the Association of Orava Museum based in Dolný Kubín. The society aimed to enlarge the Čaplovič Library collections and to protect prehistoric, historic, natural and ethnographic heritage of Orava. Objects were originally stored in the library premises, later installed and presented to public.
Meanwhile, a new museum was founded in Dolný Kubín in 1954. It was the Museum of P.O. Hviezdoslav. His private things and personal belongings became the basis of collections. In the Čaplovič Library, a historical library fund was placed, together with maps and artwork. Objects related to nature sciences were moved to Orava Castle. So there were actually two separate museum institutions operating in the region.
An important moment was the foundation of the Museum of Orava village in Zuberec. It was opened to public in 1975 and it focused mainly on ethnographic collections. Following the decision of the Ministry of Culture in 1991, immovable property of the museum was put under the administration of the Zuberec municipality.
In 1956, Museum of the Orava Compossesorate changed its name to Orava Museum of Local History. In 1980, it was merged with the Museum of P. O. Hviezdoslav. Because of this, there was only one museum established in the region - Orava Museum in Dolný Kubín. This institution also controlled Orava Castle in Oravský Podzámok, Literary museum of P. O. Hviezdoslav and Čaplovič Library in Dolný Kubín, Museum of Orava village in Zuberec and the exhibition of Hviezdoslav´s Hajnikova žena in Oravská Polhora (it was added in 1979). In 1983, the museum took over the management of the Memorial House of Martin Kukučín in Jasenová. In the same year, the museum again changed its name and since then until today, it is officially known as Orava Museum of P.O. Hviezdoslav.