New Black History Museum set to open Thursday

The armory building was restored and an extension was built on behind it.

The armory building was restored and an extension was built on behind it.

With a new director at its helm and seven figures worth of renovations behind it, Richmond’s newest museum is ready for its close up.

The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia will open May 5 with in its new home in the old Leigh Street Armory at 122 W. Leigh St. Preview events will be held beginning Thursday and regular hours will begin May 10.

With parts of the 12,000-square-foot building dating to 1895, the two-story building underwent an $8 million renovation to get it ready for its new use.

Museum director Tasha Chambers, hired last year, said the purpose of the museum is to collect and present visual, oral and written records and artifacts that relate to the black experience in Virginia.

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The Arthur Ashe statue stands 13 feet tall.

The first floor of the museum, which costs $10 for adults to enter, houses a permanent exhibition that includes interactive touch screens. Starting with Emancipation, a series of rooms takes visitors through the eras of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Massive Resistance and Civil Rights. A 25-by-4-foot touchscreen presents visitors with an interactive timeline that spans the 17th century up to the present.

Other first floor highlights include Woolworth Luncheonette booths and counter seats, a symbolic representation of Emancipation Oak at Hampton University, a corner commemorating Nascar Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, a 13-foot replica of the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue and a room for events.

The second floor will house rotating exhibits, beginning with “Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution,” a showcase of more than 50 pieces of 1970s animation art.

Chambers said the Black History Museum will now look to raise $1 million for an endowment to sustain the museum. The museum had previously operated out of a 5,000-square-foot space at 00 Clay Street, a few blocks away from its new home.

The new facility was funded in part by contributions from large corporate donors such as Dominion, Altria and WestRock.

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Scott Sirles
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The city needs to re-pave the side street adjoining the museum, St.Peter St. It’s in terrible shape.

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