"In the Beginning, all America was Virginia."
William Byrd II
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Upcoming Exhibitions

Special Exhibitions

The Private Jefferson: From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society October 15, 2016 - January 15, 2017

Purchase your tickets to The Private Jefferson

As author of the Declaration of Independence, architect of the Virginia State Capitol, founder of the University of Virginia, and third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson is one of history’s best-known figures. Surprisingly, the largest collection of Jefferson’s private papers (more than 8,000 pieces) cannot be found in the Commonwealth, but is instead in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

For the first time since the late 1800s, the most significant pieces from the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts are returning to Virginia and will be on display at the Virginia Historical Society in the exhibition The Private Jefferson: From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Among the five dozen items on display are:

  • Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence as originally drafted
  • John Adams’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence as it was presented to Congress
  • One of only 26 known copies of the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence
  • Thirty-five architectural drawings of Virginia landmarks designed by Jefferson, including Monticello, the Virginia Capitol, and the University of Virginia
  • Jefferson’s manuscript for his book Notes on the State of Virginia
  • Jefferson’s meticulous farm and garden journals

This exhibition offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these important American documents in one place. 

The Private Jefferson is organized by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Admission: Free for VHS members; $10 for nonmembers; $8 for groups of 10 or more

  • Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 804.358.4901.
  • Admission is free for children under the age of 12.
  • Interested in booking a group of 10 or more to view The Private Jefferson? Learn more

Purchase your tickets to The Private Jefferson








Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s Opening February 24, 2017

Gumby. Barbie. Slinky. Mr. Potato Head. Wham-O. Spirograph. Hot Wheels. The names of popular toys from the 1950s, '60s and '70s capture the craziness, the joy, the sheer fun of being a kid. But beneath those nutty names are rich veins of nostalgia, memory and history. The stories of the kids who played with these toys, the adults who bought them, the child-rearing experts who judged them and the people who invented them, reflect the rhythms of American life. Experience the toys and their stories through three imagined living rooms that bring the decades back to life.




Other Exhibitions

The Original Art: Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators Opening November 19, 2016

On loan from the Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, The Original Art features award-winning artwork from thirty-six children’s books published in 2015. Of particular interest to those interested in Virginia history will be The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, that tells the story of Caroline County residents Mildred and Richard Loving and the 1967 Supreme Court decision that ended anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Along with these illustrations, will be a dozen rarely exhibited illustrated books from the Virginia Historical Society collection.



Model Homes Opening November 19, 2016

Since 1997, tens-of-thousands of visitors to the Virginia Historical Society have marveled at the painstakingly detailed model of Wilton House created by Tyler, Texas model-maker Mildred Grinstead. In “Model Homes” the VHS will showcase five additional models in the collection created by Grinstead that represent some of Virginia’s most iconic colonial homes including a mammoth 4-foot tall and 8-foot wide representation of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg.

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