Top History Museums in Richmond, VA
Welcome to the Old Dominion - while visiting, I hope you will find time to visit these museums in Richmond, VA. Each of these is a unique repository for artifacts and documents, which chronicles a place in time in Virginia’s history. So, when you visit one of these museums in Richmond, VA, you will, indeed, be stepping into another era. And, if you don’t have time to tour all these museums on this trip, then add them to the top of the list for your next visit in Richmond, VA.
The Museum of The Confederacy (MOC)
Address: 1201 E. Clay Street
Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm: daily
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and half day on Christmas Eve
If you are a Civil War buff, then your first choice of museums in Richmond, VA should be the Museum of the Confederacy. Originally opened in 1896, as the Confederate Museum, housed in the former White House of the Confederacy, they have the largest collection of Civil War artifacts, documents, and memorabilia in the world. The name was changed in l970, and in 1976, the collection was moved into the current structure. Currently, a new satellite facility is being built in Appomattox, VA, and part of the Museum’s collection of artifacts will be moved there, when it opens in the spring of 2012.
One fascinating exhibit is General Robert E. Lee’s field tent; while the tenting is not original, the table, chair, cot, trunk, saddle, boots, and other personal effects are. You will also enjoy the Civil War re-enactors, who regularly visit to share their knowledge, answer questions, and set up displays. While you are there, arrange a tour of The White House of the Confederacy, which is a National Historic Landmark, and located next door.
Admission fee: youth 7-13 $5.00; White House $5.00; combo ticket $7.00
seniors 62+ $8.00; White House $8.00; combo ticket $11.00
adults $9.00; White House $9.00; combo ticket $12.00
children under 7, active military (must have ID), and MOC members get in free
You can also present your AAA membership card for a discount. Also, available, is the Richmond Civil War Pass, which costs $15.00. With this pass, you can visit The Museum of The Confederacy, The White House of the Confederacy, and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar Iron Works, another National Historic Landmark.
Parking is available nearby, at 550 North 12th Street, in the VCU Medical Center Visitor Parking deck. Your parking will be free, if you take your parking receipt to the information desk to be validated.
The Valentine Richmond History Center
Address: 10th and E. Clay Streets
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday: 12 - 5 pm; closed most holidays; check their website
Included in this Court End neighborhood stop, you will be able to visit the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark, where guided tours are offered approximately every half hour. John Wickham, a successful attorney, built the elegant home, circa 1812. He is best known for having defended Aaron Burr when he was tried for treason. In 1882, Mann Valentine purchased the property and began pursuing his dream to open a museum. When he died, he left the Wickham House, and funds for its upkeep, to the city. The Valentine Museum opened its doors in 1898, and was one of the first museums in Richmond, VA. Edward V. Valentine, Mann Valentine’s brother, served as its President until his death.
You will also be able visit Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio. While it is his actual studio, it was moved to this location and restored. One of his best-known sculptures is the Thomas Jefferson statue, in the Jefferson Hotel, here in the city.
And don’t miss the History Center Museums, where you can experience the history and growth of Richmond, VA.
Admission fee: children under 6 free; children 7-18 $7.00; students (ID required, 18-22) $7.00; seniors 55+ $7.00; adults 19+ $8.00
Or, purchase a Court End pass for $10.00, which will allow you entry into several historical sites and/or museums in Richmond, VA, including: the Sculpture Studio, the Wickham House, and the History Center, plus, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and the John Marshall House. The John Marshall House, a National Historic Landmark, is nearby, but the Black History Museum is further away, and you might want to drive to that location. This pass is valid for a year, but can be used only once for each venue. Park in the History Center parking lot, while visiting the museums, and your parking is free, if you take your parking receipt to the information desk to be validated.
Virginia Historical Society (VHS)
Address: 428 North Boulevard
Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday: 1:00 - 5:00 pm
Virginia Historical Society is the place to learn, and follow, Virginia’s history. It is possible, based on discoveries at Cactus Hill, VA, that this part of the country was ccupied16,000 years ago. From here, follow the colonists, the ‘Founding Fathers,’ and VA leaders who made the Old Dominion, and the new country, what it is today. You will see the good and bad times, the blood and sweat, which enabled the state to grow and prosper, and the joys and sorrows that helped the people grow stronger.
“An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia” is currently being exhibited, and will be on display until December 30, 2011. This is in addition to their permanent exhibits: Heads and Tales; Virginians at Work; The Story of Virginia, an American Experience; The Virginia Manufactory of Arms Collection; Solving History's Mysteries: The History Discovery Lab; and Silver in Virginia.
In addition to the many exhibits, there is also an extensive library. Before leaving the area, go next door, and visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the favorite museums in Richmond, VA - Arts.
Admission to VHS is free, and so is the parking behind the building.
Virginia Holocaust Museum
Address: 2000 East Cary Street
Hours: Monday – Friday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closed on some holidays
Established in 1997, The Museum originally opened in some vacant rooms in the Temple Beth El. By 2000, it had outgrown its space. The Virginia State Legislature donated the current site, and in April 2003, the Virginia Holocaust Museum was dedicated.
When you visit, you can tour it one of two ways. After a documentary film (14 minutes), you can begin your self-guided tour with an audio tour, which was recorded by Holocaust Survivor, Jay Ipson. This 70 minute audio tour will guide and explain the exhibits as you go. Or, if you prefer, after the documentary film, you can choose a guidebook tour, which has maps and information to direct you through the exhibits. They will provide a docent for a group of 10 or more, but reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.
Parents, and other guests, please note this quote from their website: “Due to the graphic nature of the Museum, it is recommended that all children be at least 11 years old. Guests should wear appropriate attire to crawl through an exhibit, however there are alternate, handicapped accessible routes available.”
Admission is free, but to help with operating costs, donations are accepted. Also, there is no charge for parking in their lot.
Wilton House Museum
Address: 215 S. Wilton Road
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Sunday: 1:00 - 4:30 pm
Closed national holidays
Wilton House was the home of William Randolph III, and it served as the family home for over a hundred years. The construction on Wilton House was completed in l753, on a site near the James River, on Randolph’s 2,000-acre tobacco plantation. This beautiful Georgian design home was moved from its original site, to its present location, in 1933. In 1952, it was opened as the Wilton House Museum. Come, and take a tour of this magnificent home, and see its period furnishings. When you tour this home, you will be following in the footsteps of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other leaders who have walked in these rooms, down these halls, and up these stairs. The Museum’s last tour of the day starts at 3:45 pm.
Admission fee: students $6.00; senior/AAA $8.00; general $10.00; teachers, press, dames, and children under age 6 are admitted free
Group rates are available for 10 or more people; call to obtain the rate. Parking is available.
This is just a sample of the museums in Richmond, VA. If you are a history buff, then I suggest that you start with these. While history is interesting, it is also important to our future. I think this quote by Patrick Henry says is so well: “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.”
If time permits, then check out some of the other museums in Richmond, while you are in VA. Since hours and admission fees could change, check their website for the latest information. And if you want to give a truly unique gift to someone special, then give him or her a membership to one of these museums in Richmond, VA.
The Museum of The Confederacy (www.moc.org)
The Valentine Richmond History Center (www.richmondhistorycenter.com)
Virginia Historical Society (www.vahistorical.org)
Virginia Holocaust Museum (www.va-holocaust.com)
Wilton House Museum (www.wiltonhousemuseum.org)
National Park Service (www.nps.gov)
Colonial Williamsburg (www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm)