Monumental Message: Valentine displays paint-splattered Jefferson Davis statue

Museum curators at The Valentine unveiled the temporary exhibit, which is on loan from the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 1:48 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Inside The Valentine now stands a monumental message. It’s the statue of a fallen Confederate president who is no longer high atop a pedestal.

“We hope to, in the next six months, try to capture that moment and all the feelings and all the events of 2020 in a way that hasn’t been done before,” said Bill Martin, Valentine’s director.

On Wednesday, museum curators at The Valentine unveiled the temporary exhibit on loan from the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

“To have them off of public streets where you can’t consent, into a public institution of education and learning, to me, I think is only natural,” said Josh Epperson, co-curator.

The Valentine did a study in the fall of 2020 to see what those living in the City of Richmond wanted to be done with the statues. Martin says 80% of those living in the city say the statues should be in a museum with context.

“This is a great first step in beginning the conversation about what’s next,” said Martin.

The bronze statue of Jefferson Davis went up on Monument Avenue in 1907. During a summer of unrest in 2020, protesters tied a rope around the statue and used a truck to pull it down from its spot.

“So we wanted to make sure that paint stays applied. That the damage that occurred to it when it was pulled down by protesters that it stays just that way,” said Christina Vida, Valentine curator.

Now all of that history is documented on information plaques around the statue.

“We can learn from them, and I don’t think that we should forget them. You know if they stayed in storage, a child born today may not have any idea how bad it really was,” said Epperson.

The Jefferson Davis statue was created by Edward Valentine in a studio that is now a part of the Valentine Museum. The statue arrived from the city’s wastewater treatment plant last Monday, where the other monuments remain.

Curators hope feedback cards will help decide the final fate of the other statues, which is still unknown.

“We’re able now to tell that full story that happened here in Richmond, and of course, we’re looking for feedback too,” said Vida.

The Valentine offers free admission on Wednesdays as long as the statue remains.

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