The mission of the Valentine is to engage, educate, and challenge a diverse audience by collecting, preserving, and interpreting Richmond’s history.
The history of the institution begins with Mann S. Valentine, Jr., the museum’s founder, who made his fortune with the creation and production of Valentine’s Meat Juice, a health tonic made from pure beef juice. As did many men of his era, Mann collected artifacts. His collection may have begun, as rumored, with a cigar box filled with arrowheads, but it soon grew to comprise hundreds of objects.
Mann shared his love of history with his brother, renowned sculptor Edward V. Valentine. 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 personal collection of art and artifacts and the 1812 Wickham House.
The Valentine Museum, the first private museum in the City of Richmond, opened in 1898; Edward Valentine served as its first president from its opening until his death in 1930. In his own will, he left an incredible collection of his sculpture, papers, furniture and memorabilia to the museum that still bears his family name.
Over time, the institution has evolved from a general art and history museum to one focusing on the life and history of Richmond, Virginia. For more than 100 years, the Valentine has collected, preserved and interpreted the materials of Richmond’s life and history. Through its collections, exhibitions and programs it reflects and interprets the broad issues and diverse communities which define the history of Richmond and its surrounding counties. The Valentine is the only institution in the city committed solely to this mission.
The Valentine offers major changing exhibitions, which focus on American urban and social history, costumes, decorative arts and architecture. The Valentine includes the stately 1812 Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark and outstanding example of neoclassical architecture featuring rare wall paintings.