The Valentine First Freedom Center, located at the corner of S. 14th and E. Cary Streets in historic Shockoe Slip, houses 2,200 square feet of exhibits that delve into America’s experience of religious liberty from its European antecedents through today. A room for traveling exhibits and updatable modules allows flexibility to highlight historical as well as contemporary events. Physically connected to a Marriott Residence Inn, the exhibits enjoy access to meeting space for forums and conferences. Outside, a 27-foot spire, a limestone wall etched with the enacting paragraph of the Statute, and a 34-foot banner of a seminal Jefferson quote imprint the importance of the “first freedom” on all who come upon that busy corner.
The Valentine First Freedom Center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, 12-5 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
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.
You probably know his work even if you don't know his name. Edward Virginius Valentine (1838-1930) was a prominent sculptor whose works included 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. A visit to this restored studio offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist and into his times. Learn more.
A guided tour of the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark, allows guests to explore aspects of life in the early 19th century. The Wickham House was purchased by Mann Valentine Jr. and in 1898 became the first home of the Valentine Museum. In the public first-floor rooms, ornate decorations helped the Wickhams and their enslaved servants present a picture of leisure and refinement. The Wickham House basement is temporarily unavailable for self-guided tours. Learn more.
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 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 Mueusm's interpretation of Richmond's history has evolved.
Vintage neon signs from Richmond businesses illustrate commercial growth and advertising trends, as do other artifacts mounted outdoors on the Gray Family Terrace.