History in the RVA
One of the wonderful things about living in the Richmond area is our rich variety of museums. Not only is it fun to run in the Museum District, it’s great to visit, too!
If you love art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is free for general admission, and they’ve got some amazing art in their collection. We just had Rumors of War installed there last week, a sculpture by Kehinde Wiley, as a response to the multiple statues on Monument Avenue of Confederate soldiers. It was installed, but covered, the day of our visit to the neighboring Virginia History Museum. He is the same artist who created the portrait of President Obama. He has another piece in the museum as well.
If art isn’t your thing, we’ve got the Poe museum, Civil War museum, Valentine museum, Holocaust museum, Children’s museum, Science museum… the list goes on with lots of opportunities to learn.
But if you are a Hamilton fan, go to the Virginia History Museum. They have an exhibit right now that is all about Alexander Hamilton. As an early Christmas gift, my husband and I got our girls tickets to see Hamilton at Altria Theater. Going to see this exhibit was a great companion to the musical! My younger daughter geeked out over all of the artifacts on display, including letters, period costumes, and lots of information about Hamilton’s story.
Also at the history museum right now is a very somber exhibit about equality. They trace the history of African Americans in our country, from the colonies to present day. It’s very moving.
Anyone who was born and raised in Virginia will appreciate their general history exhibits, covering from colonial times to the Civil War on through modern day.
In the gift shop, I found a very interesting book called Finding Thalhimers by Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt. If you grew up in Virginia, you might remember this department store. It was my favorite as a kid. The book is written by one of the granddaughters of the Thalhimer family, and she tells the story about how her family was established in America in the 1800’s, how they created the store, how it evolved, and, eventually, how it was bought by May Company, and was turned into Hecht’s. I ended up working for Hecht’s all through college and graduate school. It is, of course, now Macy’s.
What I loved most is learning about how much the Thalhimer family did for Jewish families in the 30’s to help them escape the Holocaust in Europe. William Thalhimer had a farm about an hour outside of Richmond which employed several Jewish men and women. He also employed some of these refugees in his Richmond store.
I was fortunate enough to meet one of these women when I worked for Beth Sholom Home. Her name was Ruth, and she was an amazing, engaging woman. She told me the story about how Mr. Thalmimer brought her over from Germany, and how she eventually became the manager of the bridal department.
It was really interesting to read the full story, as I already felt connected to the Thalhimers legacy. I never knew, however, that the family is also responsible for Maymont Park!
I really can’t believe that it has taken me over 20 years of living in the Richmond area to visit the Virginia History museum. I’ll definitely go back!