New Openings, Exhibits and Expansions at Virginia’s Historic Sites and Museums
Many of Virginia’s museums and historic sites are featuring special exhibits and collection extensions in 2020, allowing you to experience new and exciting history at your favorite Virginia landmarks. Additionally, several museums are hosting grand openings or reopenings during the year. Visit a few of these impressive museums and limited-time exhibits to expand your historic horizons.
- Monticello's “Paradox of Liberty” traveling exhibit will be on display at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond from January 12 – April 12, 2020. The exhibit gives voice to the many enslaved families that built, worked, and lived at Monticello, specifically focusing on six families that lived in slavery at Jefferson’s home for multiple generations. In addition to the exhibition, the museum will offer community conversations, panel discussions that feature descendants of the enslaved families who lived at Monticello, and guided group tours.
- The National Museum of the United States Army will open to the public on June 4, 2020. The 185,000-square-foot museum will be located in southern Fairfax County, adjacent to Fort Belvoir, and will be the first and only museum to tell the 244-year history of the U.S. Army in its entirety. The state-of-the-art museum will be a technological marvel incorporating the latest advances in museum exhibits while providing advanced educational opportunities. Admission will be free, although specific time slots are provided for tickets, and the museum will be open 364 days per year.
- January 2020 brings the reopening of Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial. Located at the top of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House has undergone a $14M historical renovation project that will allow visitors to see Arlington House as it was in 1860, including the restored quarters of the enslaved people of Arlington House. People who cannot visit in person will enjoy a robust experience through virtual tours, complete with detailed displays of the rooms and objects that belonged to George Washington and the Lee family.
- The latest special exhibit at James Madison's Montpelier, titled “Mysteries of Montpelier”, puts visitors in the shoes of the museum curators, showcasing artifacts found on Montpelier’s 2,650 acres and revealing the history behind these items, from the spear points of indigenous peoples to shoes owned by Dolly Madison.
- At The National Museum of the Marine Corps, an additional segment of the gallery will guide visitors through the evolution of the Marine Corps in the post-Vietnam era. The centerpiece of the new gallery is the "Terror Strikes" exhibit that includes the events of September 11, 2001. In addition to the 9/11 exhibit, the extension includes "No Better Friend," which explores the non-combat roles of Marines, and "Semper Family," which speaks about the universal experiences of Marine Corps family members.
- At the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in 2020:
- A New exhibit titled “A Landscape Saved – The Garden Club of Virginia at 100” will open in May 2020.
- The “Rock on TV (From the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)” exhibit will come to the VMHC May 23, 2020 – January 3, 2021.
- “Violins of Hope - A collection of Holocaust related string instruments” will be on display from May 2 - July 31, 2020.
- New gallery exhibits at Jamestown Settlement recently opened, providing information about everything from the census to cultural convergence of Powhatan Indian, English, and African cultures. They also debuted a new 4D experiential theater and a new interactive exhibit that allows visitors to delve into Pocahontas's life and legend. In addition, a "Military Through the Ages" event takes place March 21-22, 2020 and features re-enactors presenting a military timeline, from the Vikings and Roman period through the Virginia Army National Guard.
- After several years closed to the public, 2020 will bring the grand reopening of Pocahontas Exhibition Mine in Pocahontas. Renovations have been made to increase safety when touring the mine and will also be made to the museum.
- Opening March 2020 in Lexington, the Stonewall Jackson House Museum’s new orientation center will be showcasing artifacts owned by the Jackson family and rarely seen by the public.
- Windsor Castle Park’s Manor House restoration in Smithfield will be completed in 2020.
- The Miller’s House Museum, dedicated to interpreting the industrial and transportation history of the Lexington area, is adding a working model of a canal lock complete with gates, a canal boat, and running water.
- The Trails at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, opening mid-2020, will be the largest outdoor art exhibit in Virginia and will have more than three miles of trails around Winchester.
New African-American History Exhibits
- The American Civil War Museum debuted its new expanded space in May 2019 in the renovated historic Tredegar Iron Works site, which includes a new permanent exhibit, 'A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America.'
- Kehinde Wiley's new sculpture, 'Rumors of War,' was permanently installed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in December 2019.
- The "Forgotten Soldier" special exhibition at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown runs through March 22, 2020 and tells often-overlooked stories of African Americans on both sides of the war, free and enslaved. The exhibit features the contemporary artwork by Titus Kaphar.
- Coming in 2020, visitors can learn more Alexandria’s African American heritage through expanded interpretation and experiences presented by the Office of Historic Alexandria, including expanded programming at Freedom House Museum and special tours such as the African American Cemetery Tour in April.
- In February 2020, Portsmouth Living History will roll out a living history program dedicated to African American history, with several actors portraying notable figures from Portsmouth’s past.
- The Virginia Museum of History and Culture exhibit, Determined – The 400 Year Struggle for Black Equality, is on display through March 29, 2020.
- Maymont is working to expand the depth and associated educational programming for the “Belowstairs: In Service and Beyond” exhibition, which tells the story of the African American domestic staff who worked there and explores the Black community’s contributions and tribulations within the history of the Dooleys’ Gilded Age estate, in Richmond, and beyond.
- Colonial Williamsburg will feature a new exhibit titled "Revealing the Priceless: 40 Years of African American Interpretation" until March 1, 2020, which tells the stories of Williamsburg's 18th century enslaved women, children, and men.
Centennial of the 19th Amendment Guaranteeing Women's Right to Vote
- In August 2020, there will be a dedication for the new Turning Point Suffragist Memorial at Occoquan Regional Park. The national memorial to the suffrage movement will feature replica White House gates, 19 informational stops, and a landscaped meditation garden.
- The Workhouse Arts Center, once a DC prison that notoriously housed incarcerated members of the National Women’s Party, will open the Lucy Burns Museum in early 2020, which will focus on the Party’s efforts to win the right to vote.
- James Madison's Montpelier’s Nineteenth Amendment Centennial Seminar, presented by Montpelier's Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution on March 20-22, 2020, will address the history and legacy of the constitutional amendment that established women's right to vote.
- Woodlawn Estate — the first family home of George Washington's granddaughter Eleanor "Nelly" Custis — holds an annual Needlework Show each March to honor Custis' legacy as a needlework maker and to maintain the tradition of the needle arts. In 2020, the exhibit will celebrate 100 years of women expressing their rights through craft making in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment ratification.
- Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton will have a temporary Protesting the President exhibit on display through 2020 discussing the issues that President Woodrow Wilson faced while in office, with objects on display that cover the suffrage movement, as well as anti-war, civil rights, and prohibition, which was signed under Woodrow Wilson.
- The Lynchburg Museum will open a museum-wide exhibit on March 1, 2020, commemorating 100 Years of Women's Suffrage in Lynchburg, Virginia. The exhibit will tell for the first time the little-known stories of people like Lynchburg resident Elizabeth Langhorne Lewis, identified by the Library of Virginia as the second most important and influential suffragist in Virginia. Other storylines include the diversity of suffrage supporters, the strong anti-suffrage sentiment in the Hill City, and the many barriers to voting in early 20th century Virginia.
- #BallotBattle: Richmond’s Social Struggle for Suffrage will be on display at The Valentine Museum until September 7, 2020. The exhibit uses modern social media platforms to profile five Richmond viewpoints and the racial and generational tensions that each exposed.
- We Demand: Women's Suffrage in Virginia, on exhibit at The Library of Virginia until December 5, 2020, reveals how Virginia women created two statewide organizations to win the right to vote. At the centenary of woman suffrage, these remarkable women are at last recognized for their important achievements and contributions.
- The Virginia Museum of History and Culture exhibit, Agents of Change – Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today, will be on display from March 7, 2020 – September 27, 2020. Organized in conjunction with the statewide Women’s Suffrage Centennial, this exhibition featuring artifacts from the museum’s vast collections and new acquisitions made through a major collecting initiative, celebrates a century of women’s social and political activism in the Commonwealth.
For the Kids
- Beginning March 2020, the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth celebrates its 40th anniversary with special exhibits and programs throughout the year.
- The Explore More Discovery Museum in Harrisonburg is adding a kitchen for culinary experiences, classes for children, and a meeting space on its third floor.
- The Wonder Universe: A Children's Museum opened in late 2019 in the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg.
Last Updated: 1/16/2020