The White House of the Confederacy constituted the social, political, and military headquarters of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. Later named a National Historic Landmark, the building still stands today. Daily guided tours lead guests through the grand 19th-century structure, which houses more than half its original wartime furnishings.
The White House is only steps away from The Museum of the Confederacy's Richmond location, where a core exhibit chronicles the Confederacy from its beginnings to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Opened 25 years after that fateful event, the nonprofit museum displays artifacts from a collection of more than 15,000 items. They include Stonewall Jackson's sword, a letter from Pope Pius IX, and all the pennies Jefferson Davis etched his face onto in his spare time.
Meanwhile, another 400 artifacts adorn the permanent exhibit at the museum's Appomattox location. Here, a dozen audiovisual stations, parole lists, and the uniform coat worn by Lee illustrate the event that brought the Civil War to a close.
Edgar Allan Poe holds a distinguished reputation in American literature, given his proclivity for dark work, such as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” But the Poe of legend is often at odds with the real Poe: the student who had to gamble and burn his furniture to make it through college; the career man who traveled extensively to find better opportunities; and the devoted husband who never recovered from the death of his wife. He even enrolled at West Point … though he was thrown out eight months later.
The Poe Museum educates guests on the writer's life, helping them reconcile the reputed Poe with the real Poe. Located within the Old Stone House that lies just blocks from Poe's first Richmond home and his first employer, the Southern Literary Messenger, the museum showcases exhibits and significant artifacts, such as Poe's walking stick, his boyhood bed, and even a lock of his hair. This collection reveals his journey, showing what drove him to become a master writer of short stories, lyric poetry, action-movie screenplays, and, of course, horror stories.
One of the Science Museum of Virginia’s current exhibits includes a few basketball players—just don’t expect LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. These basketball players are two rats, playing a live one-on-one game to demonstrate operant and classical conditioning. Throughout the three-story museum, more hands-on examples of science await at five permanent exhibits. Inspect a rock from the moon, explore a life-size space capsule, and generate energy by pedaling a stationary bike. Kids can even build their own playground with materials such as mats and foam blocks.
Inside the IMAX Dome, a screen 10 times the size of a typical 35 mm screen shows a wide range of educational films. Outside the museum, plants in the BayScapes Garden thrive without pesticide, fertilizer, or the encouragement of a motivational speaker, and an onsite greenhouse offers free planting areas for visitors to contribute greenery and learn about sustainable farming.
Having stood its ground against those who wanted to tear it down, Wilton House serves as a symbol of the Colonial American spirit in more ways than one. Built in 1753 as the main house on a 2,000-acre plantation, the structure serves as a steadfast example of Georgian architecture. It’s the home of more than 1,400 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century objects and artifacts, including documents signed by founding fathers and US presidents. Wilton even played host to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, and George Washington’s white-wig-wearing foxhound. In addition to daily tours, the museum staff hosts events, such as lecture series, concerts, and seasonal exhibits.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia tunes brain waves to more artistic frequencies with its exhibitions, artifacts, and art pieces all created by African Americans. Situated in an ornately adorned house built in the early 19th century, the museum features works by accomplished artists, such as the vibrant abstract art of Sam Gilliam, Harlem Renaissance murals by John Biggers, and P.H. Polk's iconic photography, as well as textiles and artifacts from various ethnic groups throughout Africa. Check the museum's calendar to align your schedule with ongoing events and rotating exhibitions.
Founded in 1831, the same year chief justice John Marshall became its first president and former president James Madison its first honorary member, the Virginia Historical Society began amassing books, manuscripts, and historical objects to preserve the state's past. After moving its collections throughout the state during the Civil War, the society finally settled into the Lee House—the wartime home of General Robert E. Lee's family—in 1893 before moving to the Center of Virginia History in 1959.
The society showcases the state's heritage through long-term and temporary exhibitions such as The Story of Virginia, an American Experience, which contains artifacts from 16,000 years of Virginian history (from prehistory to the present) displayed in 10,000 square feet of galleries. Outside of its museum walls, Virginia Historical Society enlightens the public with educational programs and resources, publications, and rare nickels that caught Thomas Jefferson with his eyes closed.