by Zach Chouteau
Don’t know much about (Richmond) history? A fun and easy way to explore the city’s past awaits at a longstanding local venue that proves good things really do come in small packages.
Tucked away in the Iron Triangle neighborhood at 400 Nevin Ave., the intriguing Richmond Museum of History is split between a downstairs gallery hosting changing exhibits and a more robust second level loaded with ongoing displays shining a spotlight on the city’s eclectic yesteryear.
“The Richmond Museum of History contains so many hidden stories, there is sure to be at least one that will catch your attention,” Executive Director Melinda McCrary told the Richmond Standard. “The permanent exhibit includes artifacts related to agriculture, industry on the bayfront, wartime in Richmond as well as information about Native Americans, Latinos and African-Americans.”
Operated by the Richmond Museum Association (RMA), the venue is a trove of wonderful archival photographs from numerous eras, model boats, eclectic antiques and plenty more. One of the eye-catching standouts is surely the pristine 1931 “First Ford,” the initial Model A car to roll out of the company’s Richmond assembly plant that year. Another memorable item is a large hanging circular frame that is at first hard to comprehend; after ducking beneath its interior, visitors are provided with a photographic 360-degree view of Richmond in all its circa 1912 glory.
As for the compelling parade of temporary exhibits constantly revolving through the downstairs Seaver Gallery, the current showcase is a worthwhile look for anyone with an eye towards fashion. Having kicked off in late August and visible through Dec. 23 of this year, Accessories, Accessories, Accessories shows off a sampling of the venue’s impressive vintage clothing collection—spotlighting items worn by actual working-class Richmond residents throughout the past century.
The handsome brick building housing the museum is a treasure in itself and originally debuted in 1910 as the Carnegie Library—where the RMA first originated in the structure’s cellar. Today, in addition to the inviting museum, the association also oversees the SS Red Oak Victory, a historic warship built and launched in the Richmond Shipyard in the 1940s. The ship, docked at 1337 Canal Boulevard, is now home to numerous innovative events ranging from pancake breakfasts to vintage film series—as well as a Fleet Week WWII Reenactment on October 8 that will include music, food and even Hula dancing.
The Richmond Museum of History is open Wednesday through Sunday , from 1-4 p.m.; admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors/students over 12 . While kids under 12 are always free, any youth under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The Red Oak Victory is open for visits Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., with a $10 donation required for boarding.