The Valentine unveils temporary exhibit of Jefferson Davis statue

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The statue of Jefferson Davis is on loan from BHMVA. | Photo by RICtoday

Yesterday, The Valentine unveiled a temporary exhibit of the Jefferson Davis statue that used to be located on Monument Avenue.

The exhibit is part of the museum’s mission to learn from the public about how to display + give context to monuments and other elements of Richmond’s history.

The sculpture was part of the Jefferson Davis Memorial, erected in 1907 as part of the Lost Cause movement to honor the former president of the Confederacy. In June 2020, as part of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, protestors pulled down the Davis statue.

Following the protests, several Confederate monuments were gifted by the City of Richmond to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. BHMVA has loaned the Davis statue to The Valentine for at least six months.

Now, the statue lies horizontal in the “This Is Richmond, Virginia,” exhibit. The damage is on full display — including dents to the head, splatters of paint, and a severed arm. At the press opening of the exhibit, curator Christina Vida said that was intentional.

“I think that we have now … one of the most powerful objects in the 20th century history of Richmond and the 21st century,” Vida said. She told press that the museum worked with local preservationists to protect the 2020 condition of the piece. In doing so, the exhibit aims to tell the story of the Lost Cause as well as the movement that brought the statue down.

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Kate Sunderlin, co-curator of the Valentine Studio Project, in the studio of sculptor Edward Valentine. | Photo by RICtoday

The temporary exhibit is connected to the museum’s ongoing effort to recontextualize the sculpture studio of Edward Valentine, who created the Jefferson Davis Memorial among other Lost Cause works. A survey near the statue asks visitors to reflect on the exhibit + Richmond’s other public art.

The Valentine wants to hear from all Richmonders — so while the statue is on display, admission is free every Wednesday.

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