The Virginia Historical Society is preparing to reopen its Virginia Museum of History & Culture, which has undergone an 18-month, $30 million-plus renovation that is the most extensive in the institution’s 200-year history.
The Museum, located in Richmond, is planning a grand reopening for the weekend of May 14 and 15, when it will officially unveil to the public a renovation that touches nearly two-thirds of the museum’s 250,000 sf. The project adds about 50 percent more exhibition space, a new research library, a grand two-story entrance atrium, an immersive orientation theater, several community meeting spaces, a connection between the Museum of History & Culture with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an enhanced green space, and new amenities that include a café and museum store.
Glavé Holmes is the architect for this renovation, and Whiting-Turner Construction the GC. The PRD Group provided the exhibition design in partnership with the Museum’s internal curatorial staff.
(The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is also undergoing a $190 million renovation, designed by SmithGroup, that will impact 45,000 of the museum’s existing 650,000 sf of space, and include a new 100,000-sf wing and a 45,000-sf standalone Collections Center building. Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2023 for completion in the summer of 2025.)
Some of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture’s main goals from its renovation are to improve its infrastructure and programming, expand attendance by 25 percent, and extend the length of a guest’s visit by 50 percent.
VIRGINIA’S FIVE MAJOR REGIONS HIGHLIGHTED
As part of its reopening, the Museum of History & Culture—whose collection includes more than nine million objects—will debut exhibitions and galleries the present new approaches to learning. For example, Our Commonwealth, a more than 5,000-sf long-term exhibition with a 15-ft-wide video mural, 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. The exhibition will include living murals—large-scale, changing digital projections—and custom soundscapes that immerse them in the arts, culture, food, music, industry, and people of each region.
Other exhibits include American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith, is a Smithsonian-organized display that will dynamically bring the great American experiment of democracy to life. Treasures of Virginia will feature 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! explores alcohol crafting and consumption practices in Virginia across time. Virginia Explorers is a new interactive learning space for the museum’s youngest guests. The orientation theater will screen Imagine Virginia, a 17-minute film highlighting indelible moments and scenes in the state’s history. The film serves as an introduction to the reimagined museum.
Beyond new physical spaces, the Museum is investing time and resources into a long-term collections partnership with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. 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 are pivotal for developing an informed citizenry.