The Valentine family assembled the original collection in one of Richmond's grand homes, the 1812 Wickham House, whose elegant wall paintings would have trumpeted the wealth and status of lawyer John Wickham. Mann S. Valentine made a fortune from Valentine's Meat Juice and created a framework for the museum in 1892. It opened as the first private museum in the city in 1898.
"This is Richmond Virginia" uses artifacts to explore what defines the city. Changing exhibitions focus on American urban and social history, costumes, decorative arts and architecture.
Major holdings include a 40,000-piece collection of textiles and costumes that is one of the largest of its kind, more than 1 million photographic images of the city and 25,000 decorative arts pieces, including portraits, furniture and domestic items.
John Wickham House: The National Historic Landmark, built in 1812, is one of the finest examples of 19th-century Federal architecture in the nation.
Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio: The Recumbent Lee statue at Washington and Lee University and the statue of Thomas Jefferson at The Jefferson Hotel are among the works created by Edward Virginius Valentine (1838-1930). His studio is one of only four surviving 19th-century sculpture studios in the United States that is open to the public.
Valentine Garden: This welcome oasis in the Court End neighborhood offers lunches on weekdays from the famous Sally Bell's Kitchen.
Museum Store: Expect to find something a little different here, because items are designed and made by artisans in the Richmond area.
"Yes to the Dress": The inaugural exhibition in the new textile galleries explores "Classical Allure: Richmond Style." The four Roman goddesses that adorn the Virginia state seal create a framework for a display of draping and detail that would get approving glances in any century.
BY THE WAY
• The Valentine takes its history into the city on a wide-ranging series of walking tours. From April through October, City Center walking tours begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Hollywood Cemetery walking tours begin at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Bus tours, bicycle tours, themed tours and "History Hounds" tours are regular additions each month.
• Special themed tours in October include architecture in the downtown business district, alleys and parks of the Fan District, transformation in Scott's Addition, the stately neighborhood of Ginter Park, and Halloween history.
1015 E. Clay St.; (804) 649-0711; thevalentine.org