Looking to get out of the house without getting sick? Skip the bars and head to the museums for a safer change of scenery.
Museums around Richmond are starting to reopen with new, advanced safety protocols. As cultural landmarks, these spaces provide opportunities for education, community engagement, and enrichment. There are a number of new and ongoing exhibitions, each offering a safe way for the whole family to have fun while experiencing something out of the ordinary. Museums add to the vibrancy of the city, and their reopening brings hope in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The museums in the area have implemented face mask requirements, capacity reductions to allow for social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, alterations to hands-on exhibits, and expanded cleaning requirements. Before your visit, be sure to check the individual museum’s website for reopening policies, up-to-date operating hours, and other admission information.
Science Museum of Virginia
2500 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Science Museum of Virginia reopened its doors to the public on September 5. Now through November 1, visitors of all ages can explore the Giant Insects exhibition, which includes six robotic insects ranging from 11 to 22 feet tall — 40 to 120 times larger than their actual size. Insects from around the world are on display in large-scale, robotic form so that viewers can get an up-close view of how the real insects — the Atlas beetle, jungle nymph stick insect, caterpillar, desert locust, and praying mantis — behave in the wild.
Access to the Giant Insects exhibition is included in the cost of museum admission.
Institute for Contemporary Art
Virginia Commonwealth University
601 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220
Open Friday—Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On September 12, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University will reopen its galleries and present Commonwealth, a new indoor/outdoor exhibition. Commonwealth “explores how our common resources are used to influence the wealth and well-being of our communities,” according to the ICA.
This exhibition is the result of a years-long collaboration between the ICA and two other organizations, Philadelphia Contemporary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Beta-Local in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Exploring the concept of “commonwealth” in these three locations through writing, image-making, performance, gardening, and other forms of cultural expression, the exhibition “offers paths to understanding both the unequal structures that shape our lived realities and ways that people might come together to make the world more equitable,” according to the ICA. It features the work of artists Firelei Báez, Carolina Caycedo, Duron Chavis, Alicia Díaz, Sharon Hayes, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Nelson Rivera, Monica Rodriguez, and The Conciliation Project (TCP).
Timed tickets are free and should be reserved in advance.
1015 East Clay Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Open Tuesday—Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Explore Richmond’s complicated and nuanced history through one of the current exhibitions at the Valentine. Its most recent exhibition, Ain’t Misbehavin’: 1920s Richmond, displays costumes, textiles, art, and artifacts from the Nathalie L. Klaus and Reynolds Family Galleries. Come for the 1920s fashion, stay for the look at the many ways in which Richmonders experienced that pivotal decade.
Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic features oral histories of HIV/AIDS crisis survivors, caregivers, activists, and healthcare workers, collected by Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera. Compelling photographic portraits by Michael Simon accompany the stories.
On view through November 8, #BallotBattle: Richmond’s Social Struggle for Suffrage imagines how Richmonders advocating for and against suffrage might have used social media to further their positions if Twitter and Facebook had been around 100 years ago. As this year marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this exhibition provides a timely and accessible lens for viewing the struggle of suffrage.
Free timed tickets must be reserved in advance. While the Wickham House and the Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio remain closed until further notice, the Valentine Garden, an historic greenspace, is open for visits before or after a self-guided gallery tour.
In addition to seeing Richmond’s history on display at the Valentine, you can also have a participatory role. The Valentine has partnered with the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond for the 16th Richmond History Markers and Community Update. Now through October 28, you can nominate trailblazing individuals and organizations who are doing one of the following: creating quality educational opportunities, demonstrating innovative economic solutions, improving regional transportation, championing social justice, promoting community health, and advancing our quality of life.
Virginia Museum of History and Culture
428 North Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond, VA 23220
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Virginia Museum of History and Culture is currently open for in-person visits, but it continues to offer experiences outside of its walls as well. Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today is one current exhibition offering opportunities to enrich understanding in different formats. Like #BallotBattle at the Valentine, this exhibition honors the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19thAmendment. The in-person exhibition features artifacts of social and political activism, “highlighting the efforts and impact of a selection of female change-makers,” according to the VMHC. An online version of this exhibition is also available through September 27.
In addition, visitors can take a self-guided driving tour of locations around Richmond that were significant to the suffrage movement in Virginia, thanks to the League of Women Voters – Richmond Metro Area tour map. Furthermore, These Things Can Be Done is a documentary available on YouTube about suffrage in Virginia, featuring archival footage, photographs, oral histories, radio broadcasts, and interviews with historians, descendants of suffragists, and modern activists.
The VMHC also has an outdoor exhibition at its front entrance. All In Together is a collaborative mural project with Virginia artists Hamilton Glass and Matt Lively. While physical distance remains important for the health and safety of the community, this exhibition allowed for Richmonders to connect from afar. Participants submitted completed coloring pages, and Glass and Lively assembled them to create murals at the VMHC and around the city.
Timed tickets for indoor exhibitions must be purchased in advance. Admission includes access to all museum exhibitions.
Children’s Museum of Richmond
2626 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220
6629 Lake Harbour Drive
Midlothian, VA 23112
Open Thursday—Sunday; check website for hours.
The Children’s Museum of Richmond will reopen to the public on September 17 at both its Downtown and Chesterfield locations. For children through age 8, the Children’s Museum provides a wonderful opportunity to learn and play while getting a change of scenery. Families with video conferencing fatigue can get a break from screen time with all sorts of active and creative play options.
Kids can sharpen their observation skills with a new outdoor iSpy activity at the Downtown location or scale a new 18-foot tire climber at the Chesterfield location. They can also revisit old favorite activities at both locations, like making art in the Art Studio; practicing with coins, bills, and checks at the Bank; and repairing a car at the Service Station.
The Children’s Museum has created clearly marked paths for families to follow while inside in order to maintain social distancing, and has implemented new cleaning procedures. Some exhibits are temporarily closed. Visitors must reserve timed tickets online in advance.
Top Photo: Arizona Science Center, via Science Museum of Virginia