Virginia’s capital played an important role in the Civil War, so naturally, it’s the ideal place to learn about this crucial period in American history. However, not all is Civil War when it comes to museums in Richmond, VA. This city is also home to one of the largest art museums in the country, a super fun science museum, a museum documenting the history of African Americans in Virginia, and so much more.
Here are our favorite museums you should check out around the RVA area.
1. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of North America’s largest art museums. Interestingly enough, this was one of the first state-funded museums in America’s south. This means that since it’s still 100% state-funded, entrance is completely free! Art lovers and world history buffs alike will get a kick out of the museum’s extensive collections.
The collections here center on art from around the world, with galleries showcasing American art, East and South Asian art, European art, and African art. You’ll even find works from great artists like Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Gustav Stickley in The Art Nouveau and Art Deco collections. In the Ancient art collection, you can visit ‘Tjeby’, an authentic Egyptian mummy.
You’ll find the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at 200 N. Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220.
2. Science Museum of Virginia
If you’re looking to spend a fun day in Richmond, head to the Science Museum of Virginia for a captivating, interactive, and thoroughly educational experience. You can wonder at all different types of experience such as a massive theater with its immersive wraparound film screen, over 100 interactive exhibits, and even see live animals.
The grounds of the museum used to be a historic railway station, and you can still find a few leftover train cars outside the museum. At the entrance is the 29-ton Grand Kugel – a giant granite sphere supported by an incredibly thin layer of water, which allows you to spin it with just a minimal amount of effort — making it the perfect photo opp.
You’ll find the Science Museum of Virginia at West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220.
3. Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which opened just over 30 years ago, tells the history of Virginia’s Black residents through the periods of slavery, emancipation, the civil rights era, and through to today. Here, kids will enjoy a fun educational experience at the interactive exhibits, and you can also check out their collection of contemporary Black art.
This museum is located in the historic Leigh Street Armory, where some of the country’s first African American regiments trained. Black history in Virginia has been long and turbulent. That’s why we think this is an important stop to add to your museum tour.
You’ll find the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia at 122 West Leigh Street, Richmond, VA 23220.
4. The Poe Museum
Fans of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and his other mysterious and macabre works will love the opportunity to see manuscripts and memorabilia from Poe’s life at The Poe Museum. Richmond was an important place in Poe’s life, as this is where he began his writing career.
The Old Stone House, which houses the museum, is considered the oldest residential building in Richmond. Out behind the building, you can tour through The Enchanted Garden, which was inspired by the poem “To One in Paradise.” Inside the house, you can see furniture Poe used growing up. One section of the museum is dedicated to the author’s mysterious death, where you can learn about the over 20 theories as to how he died.
You’ll find the Poe Museum at 1914 E Main Street, Richmond, VA 23223.
5. American Civil War Museum
As mentioned, Richmond played an important role in the Civil War as the capital of the Confederacy and the site of key battles. Naturally, there is a museum dedicated to this defining time in US history. The American Civil War Museum is actually spread over three significant sites from the war. This museum aims to show a balance of perspectives, making it one of the best museums in town.
The location at Appomattox, which was the site of an important Civil War battle, has General Robert E. Lee’s death mask on display. The historic Tredegar Iron Works foundry was responsible for producing over half of the Confederate Army’s artillery. Touring the White House of the Confederacy, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s mansion, you can learn about the daily lives of those who worked there.
You’ll find the American Civil War Museum at three separate locations. Historic Tredegar: 480 Tredegar St, Richmond, VA 23219. White House of the Confederacy: 1201 E Clay St, Richmond, VA 23219. ACWM – Appomattox: 159 Horseshoe Rd, Appomattox, VA 24522.
6. Institute for Contemporary Art
For lovers of contemporary art, the Institute of Contemporary Art located on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus is a must-see spot for futuristic design and displays. The thoroughly modern building is an eco-friendly architectural masterpiece, and the grounds house an outdoor sculpture garden.
The museum doesn’t have a permanent collection and instead offers ever-changing exhibits. It is dedicated to exhibiting diverse artistic media and also hosts performances and films.
You’ll find the Institute for Contemporary Art at 601 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220.
7. Virginia Holocaust Museum
The Virginia Holocaust Museum was founded by a survivor of the Holocaust 25 years ago. Their goal is to use personal stories to educate on the dangers of prejudice and indifference. This is by far one of the most moving museums in Richmond, VA.
On display is an authentic Third Reich boxcar likely used by the Nazis to transport Jewish people. They’ve also recreated a courtroom used during the Nuremberg trials to prosecute Nazi war criminals. Plus, they also have exhibitions dedicated to other genocides in places like Rwanda, Cambodia, and Armenia.
You’ll find the Virginia Holocaust Museum at 2000 E Cary St, Richmond, VA 23223.
Whether you love art, history, or science, there is certainly something for you in Richmond. We hope you’ve been inspired by our list of the top museums in Richmond, VA and have some inspiration for your next day out!