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Virginia Museum of History & Culture set to reopen to public in May

Virginia Museum of History & Culture
Image courtesy Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

An expanded and reinvigorated Virginia Museum of History & Culture will reopen to the public in May, giving visitors a dramatically renewed, innovative and welcoming museum experience after the most extensive and transformative renovation in the institution’s nearly 200-year history.

Designed to engage, inform and inspire, the renovated museum looks to open minds young and old, offer different perspectives and make connections between yesterday and today by presenting history through a fresh and accessible lens.

The museum’s grand reopening events include member and supporter previews, followed by a full public opening celebration with live music, free admission and family activities the weekend of May 14 and 15.

For all the details and information about becoming a member, visit VirginiaHistory.org.

“After two years of work, we simply can’t wait to welcome guests from around the state and across the nation to this special place. This extensive project, the most important in our own institutional journey, was done for them,” said VMHC President & CEO Jamie Bosket. “We are committed to thoughtfully saving and sharing the story of this Commonwealth in a way that better welcomes and reflects all its people.”

The VMHC is the only institution dedicated to presenting the entire history of Virginia, over time and across regions. Its nationally significant collection of more than 9 million objects, renowned research library, galleries and public programs demonstrate the centrality of Virginia to the narrative of the United States.

The $30+ million renovation of nearly two-thirds of the VMHC’s 250,000-square-foot building includes a grand two-story entrance atrium; an immersive orientation theater; approximately 50 percent more exhibition space to accommodate an exciting mix of long-term and changing exhibitions; an entirely new research library; several community meeting and gathering spaces; a new campus connector between the VMHC and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; an enhanced green space; and a new café and museum store, among other amenities.

In conjunction with its grand reopening, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture will debut multiple new exhibitions and galleries that present new approaches to understanding the distant and not-so-distant past. Our Commonwealth, a marquee long-term exhibition, is the centerpiece of the museum’s new offerings. It will provide an in-depth, multi-sensory exploration through the five major regions of Virginia, featuring stories and artifacts from partner organizations and cultural institutions throughout the state — a unique approach to exhibition development.

Our Commonwealth will launch audiences on a memorable and scenic journey, thanks to living murals — large-scale, changing digital projections — and custom soundscapes that will immerse them in the arts, culture, food, music, industry and people of each region.

In preparation for Our Commonwealth, the VMHC has invested in developing robust regional partnerships with institutions around the state. Among these statewide partners are the Lynchburg Museum and Fredericksburg Area Museum (Central Virginia); Office of Historic Alexandria and Manassas Museum (Northern Virginia); Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and Rockbridge Historical Society (Shenandoah Valley); Blue Ridge Institute and Museum and WKMA/Never the Same Museum (Southwestern Virginia); and Historical Society Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Mariners’ Museum and Park (Tidewater Virginia). These rich and inspiring collaborations have led to enhanced curatorial insights and have increased the depth of connection with the five regions of the state.

In addition to Our Commonwealth, other exhibitions opening in May 2022 include American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith, a Smithsonian-organized exhibition that will dynamically bring the great American experiment of democracy to life; Treasures of Virginia, which will feature remarkable objects associated with Virginians who, through extraordinary leadership and creativity, have worked to shape the future of both our state and our nation; Cheers, Virginia!, a project that explores alcohol crafting and consumption practices in Virginia across time; Virginia Explorers, a new interactive learning space for the museum’s youngest guests; and History Matters, an introductory exhibition that speaks to the ways history connects us all. There will also be a new orientation theater screening Imagine Virginia, a spectacular 17-minute film highlighting indelible moments and scenes in Virginia history that serves as an introduction to the reimagined museum.

Beyond the new physical spaces, the museum is also investing time and resources into a long-term collections partnership with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia to provide a more comprehensive look at Virginia’s past. In addition, the museum is a key partner with educators across the state, enhancing the stories that can be told and supplementing the curricula that is pivotal for developing an informed citizenry. With history happening around us all the time, the VMHC is uniquely situated to collect, preserve, analyze and share it in compelling and truthful ways.

The museum recently established The Commonwealth History Fund, a unique way for the VMHC to support history education and preservation in communities across the state. Through this new grantmaking program, the VMHC will provide millions of dollars to empower history-minded organizations and activities, invest in underrepresented history and encourage greater statewide collaboration. The Fund will provide nearly $400,000 annually in grants to history organizations and projects across the state, and up to $2,000,000 in its first five years of operation. The Fund was created principally through generous funding from Dominion Energy.

The VMHC is guided in the belief that forging relevant and meaningful connections between the past and present is critical to fostering empathy, perspective, commonality and dialogue for all audiences today and to building a mutually beneficial future. History matters now more than ever, and the VMHC is committed to ensuring that all Virginians, and Americans, see themselves and their communities throughout the Museum’s offerings.


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