The beginnings date from the Museum of the Mother of Slovakia (1870 - 1875), whose collections he took over. The establishment of the museum was connected with the establishment of the Slovak Museum Society (MSS). Its goal was to save and collect all the important monuments of Slovakia. Thanks to MSS chairman Andrej Kmeť, the first building was built (1906 - 1907), designed by Milan Michal Harminc. The museum was inaugurated in 1908 (In 1994, the building was declared a national cultural monument).
Due to the lack of exhibition space, the idea of building a new SNM building was initiated (1929 - 1932). Its author was also Milan Michal Harminc (1869 - 1964). The realization was completed in 1932, but the installation of all exhibits took a lot of time. The grand opening did not take place until 1938.
Many collections were concentrated in the museum: arts and crafts, fine arts, Slovak national history, archeology, church monuments, numismatics, folk art, written and book collections, monuments of living and inanimate nature. Even in the years 1942 - 1953 also the estate of MR Štefánik.
The museum was nationalized in 1948. In 1961, it was administratively merged with the Slovak Museum in Bratislava. At the same time, the Martin Museum became a central all-Slovak ethnographic museum. That was the reason for redistributing some of the collections to other museums.
At the end of the 20th century, Harminc abandoned "decorated" classical architecture. With the advent of functionalism (already 60 years old), his work took on a new expression. Clean molds, a flat roof and also the properties of the new material came to the fore. A competition was announced for this project, in which Harminc participated with several variants.
In the end, the one where he designed a two-storey building was realized. Although he was already creating in a new spirit, the building has retained a monumental time thanks to a series of 18 continuous stone pilasters on the main façade (natural stone cladding, rhyolite), which create a wide arcade on the ground floor by omitting the intercolumni partition. He designed a pair of statues in front of them at the main entrance.
The monumentality was also supported by the urban solution. He placed the building on the elevated terrace of the city as a landmark in the axis of the street, running straight from the main square in Martin.
The entrance area is bridged by a long single-arm stone staircase, which was divided into 10 sections. The building itself is designed as a structural double wing in the shape of the letter T, with variable exhibition spaces. The main communication space is located in the middle of the layout, which offers good conditions for free installation of exhibits. The entrance part is followed by a magnificent three-armed staircase that leads to the exhibition rooms upstairs. On the ground floor there are only workspaces and the necessary ancillary equipment. The exhibition space on the third floor is sunk into a low reinforced concrete hip roof. Lighting is provided by skylights. The building covers 37 rooms with an exhibition area of 46,000 m2.