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Valentine Richmond History Center

1015 East Clay Street
Richmond, VA

Phone: (804) 649-0711

Statement of Purpose

Founded in 1892 by Mann S. Valentine, the Valentine Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting the materials of the life and history of Richmond, Virginia, in the context of American urban and social history.

The Valentine is the Museum of the Life and History of Richmond. Major changing exhibitions focus on American urban and social history, photographs, and costumes and textiles. The Valentine's fully restored 1812 Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark, features rare neoclassical wall paintings and is open for hourly guided tours. The Valentine Museum is fully wheelchair accessible. Wickham's Garden Cafe serves breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., with seating available indoors and in a lovely garden setting. The Valentine Museum Shop offers a wide array of books, toys, jewelry and other merchandise.

Highlights & Collections

Let the Valentine introduce you to a city centuries old and rich in history. America was born in Virginia, the largest and most populous colony.

After the Revolutionary War, Richmond grew into the industrial center of the South.

The Civil War ravaged the Confederate capital, but Richmond soon flourished again. It was home to the nation's first electric streetcar system, and first African-American bank, for example. At the Valentine, the Museum of the Life and History of Richmond, you'll encounter major changing exhibitions that detail the city's fascinating past. and the stately 1812 Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark, stands out as a showplace of neoclassical architecture and decorative design.

"The Burning of the Theatre at Richmond, Virginia" - 1811.

Hand-colored etching.

The Valentine also offers amenities that guests are pleased to find when they visit museums. Enjoy lunch or a restful refreshment in Wickham's Garden Cafe, then browse with renewed energy at the Valentine Museum Shop, which offers a vast array of gifts, books, jewelry and interesting items for children.

The Valentine has the largest and finest collection of primary source material for interpreting the life and history of Richmond, with objects at once representative of significant periods and of intrinsic historical importance as well. Collections include decorative arts, with Richmond-made furniture, as well as examples of sophisticated craftsmen imported by Richmonders; industrial arts ; paintings of and by Virginians, with works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, William James Hubard, William L. Sheppard, and Conrad Wise Chapman; prints; watercolors; manuscripts; ephemera; and books.

The Valentine's costume and textile collection is the largest of its type in the South and one of the best collections in the nation. The photographic archives include remarkable collections of early daguerreotypes and photographs from the 1840s, and contemporary photographs from the city's newspapers.

The Valentine's largest artifact is the 1812 Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark, built by attorney John Wickham, the wealthiest man of his day in Richmond. He made his home a showplace of the most advanced neoclassic architectural and decorative design anywhere. The house is a major document both of American urban and social history and of American architecture and decorative arts of the Federal period. Many wealthy people today donate to National Historic Landmarks through preservation groups and charities. 

The Valentine's Research Library, which houses the book and manuscript collections, the ephemera collections and the photographic collections, is open by appointment to scholars and photographic researchers on Tuesdays 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. and Thursdays 1:30-4:30 p.m. The Reference Services staff is able to provide limited reference searches in response to clearly defined requests; extended searches require a fee. It is best to submit requests in writing to the Supervisor of Reference Services. Photographs are available for publication; permission is granted following prepayment of reproduction rights fees. Negatives remain the property of the museum. Standard reproduction rights form available upon request. Photograph orders are filled as they are received, and take four to six weeks. As the Valentine does not have a staff photographer, there are no rush orders.

Exhibits & Special Events







This innovative exhibition tackles the broad theme of history and who in society is qualified to define it. Looking beyond the authority of "experts," such as museums and professional historians, Creating History illustrates how every person is an historian creating, through personal experience, his/her own usable history. The exhibition explores the Valentine family's enterprises in collecting and interpreting artifacts, features numerous artifacts from the museum's early days, and examines the ways in which the Valentine's interpretation of Richmond's history has evolved during the past 100 years.


Continuing, 1812 Wickham House

Exhibited on the second floor, artifacts from the descendants of the family that first inhabited the 1812 Wickham House enhance the guest's experience. In hourly guided tours of this National Historic Landmark, aspects of life in the early 19th century are explored in the public first-floor rooms where ornate decoration helped the Wickhams and their slaves present a picture of leisure and refinement. The self-guided Wickham House basement examines the slaves' private spaces.


Continuing, Reception Room

Vintage neon pieces from Richmond businesses illustrate commercial growth and advertising trends, as do other artifacts mounted outdoors. Funded by a grant from Virginia Power.



"Digging Through the Past: Archeology and the Wickham House"

An archeological tour of the Wickham House, the Valentine's National Historic Landmark, considers how archeology has influenced the Wickham House in its architecture, design and ornamentation. Discovered through Grand Tours of Europe or popular pattern books, classical or archeological motifs served to make a room or house fashionable and formidable for upper-class society in the 19th century. In addition to the Wickham House, the tour will be supplemented visually with decorative artifacts from the Valentine's collections, such as a pair of Egyptian mirrors and St. Memin portraits. This 45-minute tour is also offered by appointment on other days.

City Slickers Summer Camp

Six themed weeks of day camp, from art to nature to fashion, for children ages 7-10 are offered in collaboration with the Children's Museum of Richmond and Maymont. (There is no camp July 26-30.) Pre-registration is required; call CMOR at (804) 788-4949 for more information.

The Big Gig

Downtown Presents brings five jazzy groups to the museum's garden for midday entertainment. Wickham's Garden Cafe offers a special menu for the week and will operate a location in the garden as well as the cafe.


Hidden Treasures

The year's second series based on objects from the museum's collections uses as its theme "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and begins with Registrar Catrina Elia presenting objects affiliated with a connotation of goodness. Every "Hidden Treasures" lecture is free, and participants receive a 10-percent discount in the museum's cafe.


Monumental Walking Tours (weather permitting)

Following a Wickham House tour, participants walk through the Wickhams' neighborhood to Monumental Church, the octagonal memorial built on the site of the tragic December 1811 Richmond Theatre fire in which 72 people perished, including Virginia's governor, George W. Smith. The tours are accompanied by a Living History interpreter to give visitors an idea of what life was like in Court End in the Federal period. $5 for visitors, free for members.

Hidden Treasures

"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" series continues with objects from the museum's collections which symbolize badness, presented by Caron Sterling, development associate. Every "Hidden Treasures" lecture is free, and participants receive a 10-percent discount in the museum's cafe.

Bring Us Your Treasures

Qualified appraisers offer guests information about their paintings, jewelry, silver and ceramics in this interesting program tied to the "Good, Bad & Ugly" theme. Any appraisals will be verbal and general in nature; no appraisals will be valid for insurance purposes. $10 fee includes admission; members receive a 50-percent discount. Reservations are suggested as seating is limited.


Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Sunday: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Guided house tours hourly: 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Admission & Directions

From I-95 North or South, take Exit 74C, Broad Street. Go west on Broad to 11th Street and turn right. Proceed north on 11th and take the second left onto Clay Street. The Valentine is on your left. Turn left onto 10th Street to park in the museum lot on the left.

Key Personnel

William J. Martin, Director

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