Valentine Richmond History Center

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The Valentine
Valentine Museum
Established 1898
Location Richmond, Virginia
Type History Museum & National Historic Landmark
Collection size Multiple
Director William J. Martin, Director
President John C. Stanchina, Chairman
  • David Voelkel, Elise H. Wright Curator of General Collections
  • Meg Hughes, Curator of Archives
  • Kristen Stewart, Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costume & Textiles

Coordinates: 37°32′30.3″N 77°25′52.7″W / 37.541750°N 77.431306°W / 37.541750; -77.431306

Mann S. Valentine and the Artist, oil on canvas, William James Hubard, 1852. Collection of the Valentine

'The Valentine,' originally the Valentine Museum and formally the Valentine Richmond History Center, is a museum that opened on November 21, 1898 and is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of Richmond, Virginia, USA. Mann S. Valentine II was the museum’s founder.

The Valentine offers major changing exhibitions which focus on American urban and social history, costumes and textiles, decorative arts and architecture. The Valentine also includes the stately 1812 John Wickham House, a National Historical Landmark and outstanding example of neoclassical architecture. The Valentine is the only institution in the city committed solely to Richmond history.

In August 2011, the Valentine learned of its continuing accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, the professional organization for museums nationwide. The museum has been continuously accredited since 1972, just one year after the accreditation program’s inception. The Valentine is one of five accredited institutions in the Richmond region. Only 779 museums in the United States are accredited, and only 22 percent are history museums.

In 2014, the Valentine completed a $4.1 million renovation of its public exhibition galleries, lobby, museum store and education center.



The history of the museum begins earlier than 1898 with its founder, Mann S. Valentine II Valentine made his fortune with the creation and production of Valentine’s Meat Juice, a health tonic made from pure beef juice. The juice reached its greatest success and acknowledgment in 1881 when President Garfield said, after wounded from a bullet in an assassination attempt, that he breakfasted on Valentine’s Meat Juice along with toast and poached egg to get better.

Mann and his sons were all involved in the Valentine Meat Juice Company, which allowed for the entire family to prosper in class and fortune. During the late 19th century, with this rising wealth, the Valentines began to actively collect in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, fine arts and decorative arts. Their collection was the foundation of the exhibitions when the Valentine Museum opened in 1898.

Mann S. Valentine II also shared his love of history with his brother Edward Virginius Valentine, who was a renowned sculptor. Mann laid the foundation for the museum in 1892; when he died in 1893, he provided the original bequest for the Valentine Museum, leaving his collection of art and artifacts and the 1812 John Wickham House. The Valentine Museum was the first private museum in the City of Richmond and opened to the public in 1898. Edward Valentine served as the museum’s first president from the opening until his death in 1930. In his own will, he left his sculpture, papers, furniture and memorabilia to the museum that still bears his family name.

The first major renovation and expansion of the museum occurred in 1928.

In 1948, the Board of Trustees focused their mission by adding the subtitle,"A Museum of the Life and History of Richmond," to the Valentine Museum. The subtitle was later dropped in 1967.

In the late 1970s, a major renovation and expansion was undertaken to add a new wing to accommodate more artifacts and increase exhibition space for the public. The Row Houses that served as the primary museums space were renovated and expanded as well.

In 1994, an 8-year restoration of the 1812 John Wickham House, formerly called the Wickham-Valentine House was completed, where in the 1820s lived 15 Wickham family members, one white housekeeper and 15 enslaved African Americans

The museum initiated an identity change in October 2000 for the institution to better reflect its role within the community. With a reputation as Richmond’s history center, the name was changed to Valentine Richmond History Center. In August 2014, the museum changed its name and identity to the Valentine with a new brand and adopted the subtitle "Richmond Stories."

In October 2014, the Valentine completed renovations to its public exhibition galleries. The renovations features more accessible gallery spaces and a new education center, lobby, and multi-purpose room.

Permanent Collection[edit]

The Valentine has well over half a million objects and 1 million photographs in its collections.

  • This is Richmond, Virginia: What defines a city? Physical boundaries? People? Economy? Government? Shared beliefs? Richmond is defined by all of these concepts. No one aspect is greater than the other. Together, they create this unique place we call Richmond, Virginia. Richmond is also defined by artifacts, which convey meaning and tell stories. They are collected as silent witnesses of the past and present. The objects in this exhibition have passed through many hands to create personal stories. Collectively, these artifacts help to tell the community’s larger history.
  • Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio: Edward V. Valentine (1838-1930), the brother of Mann S. Valentine II was a prominent sculptor whose works include the Recumbent Lee statue at Washington & Lee University, and the statue of Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Hotel. His studio is one of only four surviving 19th century sculpture studios in the United States that is open to the public.
  • Wickham House and Collections: The Wickham House built in 1812, was purchased by Mann S. Valentine II and in 1898 became the first home of the Valentine Museum. Guided tours of this National Historic Landmark are available of the public first-floor rooms with neoclassical wall paintings, some of which are the original untouched designs. The second floor contains artifacts from the descendants of the family that first inhabited the house.
  • Creating History: The Valentine Family and the Creation of a Museum: Looking beyond the authority of "experts," such as museums and professional historians, this exhibition illustrates how every person creates, through personal experience, his or her own usable history. A new interpretation of this popular exhibition, “Creating History” is now viewable on the second floor of the 1812 John Wickham House and features additional objects from the Valentine’s founding collection. The exhibition explores the Valentine family's collecting enterprises, Valentine's Meat Juice, and ways in which the Valentine's interpretation of Richmond's history has evolved.
  • Signs of the Times: This collection of vintage signs all of which still work is from Richmond businesses over the years. These signs illustrate commercial growth and advertising trends and are mounted outdoors on the Gray Family Terrace.
  • Costume and Textile: The Costume and Textile Collection, comprising about 40,000 pieces, enjoys an international reputation and is the largest collection of its kind in the South. Although the Valentine's primary collecting concentration is objects related to Richmond, the costume and textile collection's focus is broader, including items worn, used, made or sold in Virginia from the 1600s to the present.The costume segment encompasses clothing and accessories worn by Virginians of diverse social groups and all ages, for both private and public occasions; a particular strength is its date range, from a 1668 christening dress to items worn this year. The textile holdings include important groups of 18th and 19th-century quilts and samplers, as well as a wide range of domestic textiles.[citation needed]

Rotating Exhibitions[edit]

  • The Valentine has several rotating exhibitions that include photographs, clothes and textiles and historical based exhibits that impacted Richmond in a significant way.
  • A History of Richmond in 50 Objects, opened on February 14, 2014 in the Massey Gallery located on the main floor of the museum. This exhibition explores the history of Richmond, Virginia, through a selection of objects from the Valentine collection. Paying homage to “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” the ground-breaking partnership of the British Museum and BBC Radio 4 in 2010 that focused on world history, this exhibition continues the dialogue in a way that is uniquely Richmond. From an 1819 imprint of John Smith’s 1624 Map of Virginia to the rainbow flag that flew at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in 2011, “RVA50” examines how objects contain layers of meaning that are both personal and public. The exhibit closed on October 20, 2013 but is available to view online via Google Cultural Institute.
  • History Ink: The Tattoo Archive Project, opened on November 2, 2012 and closed on March 31, 2013, focuses on the rising popularity of body art, specifically tattoos, broadly in American culture and locally in Richmond. The Valentine partnered with Richmond, Va. photographer Terry Brown to document tattoos created in Richmond. The exhibit is now available to view online.
  • Wickham House 200: Inspiring New Art Two Centuries Later seeks to show how inspirational the Wickham House remains in the present day. To accomplish this goal, students from the nationally recognized Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts have created site-specific works of art inspired and informed by the house's architecture and history. The exhibit explores contemporary responses to the House in a variety of media and disciplines. The exhibit is now available to view online.
  • Displayed until October 2012 in the Stern Gallery was the photo exhibition Richmond Comes Together: Images of Community Outreach. This photograph exhibit featured images of the various local and national organizations that provide social services and advocate for members of the Richmond community. Highlights of the show included examples of late 19th and 20th century efforts to fight poverty, homelessness and hunger. The exhibition also documented the local volunteers and philanthropists who have worked to improve child, senior and animal welfare and to provide education, job training and health care.
  • From October 2009 to March 2010 this included, Please Enjoy the Show: Images of Richmond Theater, exhibited photographs exploring Richmond’s 20th century theater community, examining playhouses and movie theaters, professional and amateur actors, and memorable events and personalities.
  • The Waste Not, Want Not: Richmond’s Great Depression, 1929-1941, exhibition was on display from October 2009 until September 2010. It demonstrated life in Richmond during the Great Depression. In the midst of calamity, Richmond residents joined other Americans in an explosion of political, organizational and cultural creativity. Several important local businesses, organizations and cultural institutions were established during this period.
  • In February 2011, the museum invited the public to submit original, creative captions for up to 100 random images from the Valentine’s Richmond Times-Dispatch Collection. The winning captions appeared alongside their respective photos, along with the actual captions that ran in the Richmond newspapers. This exhibition was on display at the Valentine and the Richmond Times-Dispatch until September 2011.
  • In 2011, The Inaugural Gowns of Virginia’s First Ladies displayed nine gowns worn at inaugural balls or receptions held in honor of the new Virginia Governor. These evening dresses present a glimpse into the personal style of each woman and the fashion of the time. Fashion in the state Capitol has followed the major trends of the 20th century.


The Valentine offers a variety of programs for youth and adults related to the Richmond community.

School programs have been offered by the Valentine since the 1930s. Today, the educational department at the Valentine offers a wide range of programs that are compatible with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements. The Valentine serves nearly 25,000 children a year. Richmond History Tours, formerly Historic Richmond Tours, also offers to schools and youth groups walking tours and bus tours focused on Richmond history. During the 2013-2014 academic year due to museum renovations, all education programs were offered as outreach programs allowing the Valentine to continue serving students and get out into the community they support.



External links[edit]

Media related to Valentine Richmond History Center at Wikimedia Commons