Sign Spotting

When is the last time you slowed down and looked at all the signs around you? Do you think about who put them up? And why? Whether lit from within, glitzy with gold or hoisted up high, signs communicate. Signs are also location-specific, providing information within a defined space.

Come and explore our newest exhibition, Sign Spotting, which takes visitors on a fascinating journey through Richmond’s history of signage. From vintage neon signs to public facility signs from the Jim Crow era to local advocacy signs, this exhibition explores how iconic Richmond signage has been used to inform, advertise, and persuade.

Enjoy free admission to the Valentine on Saturday, May 27th in honor of Sign Spotting.

Click here to listen to audio descriptions of the exhibition.

An Unfinished Museum: 125 Years of the Valentine

In 1930, acting Director Laura Bragg expressed her dismay at plans to delay the reopening of the 30-year-old Valentine Museum following a major reorganization and expansion. She wrote to then-president Granville Valentine “A finished museum is a dead one.” and urged that the museum open as planned that October. An Unfinished Musuem: 125 Years of the Valentine explores through photography the evolving role of the Valentine Museum to address the changing needs of the Richmond community. From general museum to one focused on the region’s history, the Valentine has never been content to be static. See how the Valentine’s collections, exhibitions and programs have grown and changed over the decades while remaining committed to the museum’s physical presence in downtown Richmond.


In honor of An Unfinished Museum, the Valentine will offer free admission on Saturday, July 1, 2023.

Breathing Places: Parks & Recreation in Richmond

In 1851, Richmond’s Committee on Public Squares acknowledged the region’s rapid residential and commercial growth and recommended “securing breathing places in the midst of the city or convenient to it.” Over the last 170 years, the city and surrounding counties have secured land, engineered, and maintained “breathing places” for some of the region’s residents while limiting and denying access to others.  Breathing Places: Parks & Recreation in Richmond explores the design, use and change of Richmond’s carefully crafted parks, recreation areas and natural spaces and their effect on the region’s residents today.

Breathing Places will also include a slideshow of rotating images featuring community-submitted photos. Richmonders (both individuals and organizations) can submit images of themselves, their families or their friends enjoying greenspaces across the region HERE.


Edith Shelton’s Richmond Revisited

Following the Valentine’s popular 2015 exhibition, explore mid-20th Century Richmond neighborhoods through a new selection of imagery by amateur photographer Edith Shelton.

The Valentine Studio Project

In response to calls for cultural institutions to provide an unvarnished history of Richmond’s past, the Valentine has adopted an ambitious plan: completely reinterpret Edward Valentine’s sculpture studio, where he conceived many significant Lost Cause artworks. In 2020, the Valentine sought community input from the greater Richmond region via a public survey on how to reimagine the space. Edward Valentine was one of the founders of the museum and played a central role in creating and disseminating Lost Cause iconography. The newly reimagined studio will provide visitors a space to confront and reckon with the painful history of Richmond’s and the Valentine’s early role in the development and spread of the harmful Lost Cause mythology.

In 2021, the Valentine engaged award-winning architecture and design firm Studio Joseph to produce concept designs for the Studio space. In 2022, the Valentine will collect feedback from the Richmond community on these designs.

Relatedly, the Valentine is working with Reclaiming the Monument as well as the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia to engage directly with the Richmond community around the issues of monuments and public art. Feedback gathered through these partnerships will also inform the final Valentine Studio design. Your input will help the Valentine understand how our community thinks and feels about these topics and how we can best serve the Richmond region in the future.

To provide your thoughts on monuments, click HERE.


Based on footage collected during a Richmond-based documentary directed by Dr. Chaz Antoine Barracks, PhD, DONT TOUCH MY HAIR rva explores diverse African American identity through stories of Black hair experiences. Featuring images by DeAudrea ‘Sha’ Rich and Nicholas Taylor, this media-arts project looks at Black identity by both centering and creating spaces that embody Black cultural production—and understanding everyday Black life as fine art. Beauty salons and other Black-owned locations are included as spaces of community and uninhibited joy. Look through the camera lens to explore nuanced and imaginative concepts of Black homes, which provide space to exist freely and authentically. Originally planned for a gallery space, the project paused as the creators considered how to present an art exhibition in the pandemic era. Now, experience DTMHrva at the Valentine as an exterior installation and through new film presented at the Afrikana Independent Film Festival.

Artists work featured in this current exhibition project are: DeAudrea ‘Sha’ Rich, Nicholas Taylor, NontsiKelelo Mutiti, Wes Taylor, Dr. Pamela Lawton, Tawnya “Dr. T” Pettiford-Wates, Nicholas Vega, Sasha Williams, Johannes Barfield, Christine Wyatt, Christina Nicole Miles, and many more from the Richmond Black arts community. 


Ain’t Misbehavin’: 1920s Richmond

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Roaring Twenties, the Valentine presents Ain’t Misbehavin’: 1920s Richmond, an exhibition of costume, textiles, art and artifacts in the Nathalie L. Klaus and Reynolds Family Galleries. The 1920s are remembered in America as a decade that “roared” with change, including urban expansion, equal suffrage, social integration, jazz music, fast dancing and short hemlines. In Richmond, the decade’s seismic social shifts unfolded against a backdrop of conservative values. Like the popular 1929 tune of the same name, Ain’t Misbehavin’: 1920s Richmond presents a playful commentary on Richmond’s mixed reaction to the Roaring Twenties amid a sparkling display of some of the 1920s fashions worn in the city.


The Wickham House

A dialogue-based guided tour of the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1812, challenges 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. This historic home allows us to tell the complicated story of the Wickham family, the home’s enslaved occupants, sharing spaces, the realities of urban slavery and more.



#BallotBattle: Richmond’s Social Struggle for Suffrage

To highlight the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, #BallotBattle: Richmond’s Social Struggle for Suffrage uses modern social media platforms to profile five Richmond viewpoints and the racial and generational tensions that each exposed. Between 1909 and 1920, both pro-suffrage and anti-suffrage advocates battled tenaciously, using all the platforms available to persuade both the legislature and the general public. While they could not use Twitter or Facebook, they did rely on newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, postcards, banners, and personal accessories to proclaim their viewpoints.  Just like our complicated social media battles today, the final political and legal outcome was never a foregone conclusion.


Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic

Despite years of medical and social progress, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS persist today. The disease is viewed by many as a scourge of the past that is now easily treatable and primarily impacting gay white men. However, the numbers reveal a more complicated story—one in which gay African-American men have a 1 in 2 chance of acquiring HIV/AIDS.

Richmond’s rate of HIV infection, currently ranked 19th nationally, is exacerbated by high concentrations of poverty, lack of sex education in public schools and the continuing opioid epidemic. Featuring oral histories collected by Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera with accompanying photographic portraits by Michael Simon, Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic offers a nuanced look at the HIV/AIDS crisis through the stories of survivors, caregivers, activists and health care workers on the front lines.

This project is funded in part by Virginia Humanities.

Support is also provided by University of Richmond, Office of the Provost and Dean’s Office, School of Arts & Sciences and the following generous sponsors. 


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