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Hampton History Museum

Posted on: January 23, 2019

Treasures from the Hampton University Museum Collection - Lunch in Time

SQUARE the-banjo-lesson-1893

The impressive holdings of the Hampton University Museum are highlighted by Director Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward in an illustrated lecture, “Treasures of the Hampton University Museum Collection” as part of the Hampton History Museum’s free “Lunch in Time” series on Wednesday, Feb. 20, noon-1 p.m.

Founded in 1868, the museum is the nation’s oldest African-American museum and the oldest museum in Virginia.  The holdings represent the first assemblage of African art collected by African American William H. Sheppard and it is the first institutional collection of work by African-American artists. The more than 12,000 objects and works of art are representative of cultures from around the world.

The museum’s focus turned to the fine arts in 1894 with the acquisition of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s “The Banjo Lesson.” Works by Jacob Lawrence, John Biggers, Samella Lewis and Elizabeth Catlett are also among the collection.  The museum’s art holdings of the Harlem Renaissance period are among the nation’s finest.

The museum has one of the most exceptional collections of African, Native-American and African-American art in the United States and is the oldest African-American museum in the country. The museum is also renowned for its world-class collection of contemporary art by African-American artists.

Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward has been the Director of the Hampton University Museum since August 2016. Prior to that she served as Interim Director and Curator of Collections. She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in American Studies from the College of William and Mary; a Master of Arts in museum and archival studies from Hampton University; and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Virginia Wesleyan College. She continues to serve the museum and arts community on several boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for the Virginia Association of Museums and the Arts Committee for Downtown Hampton Child Development Center.

The program is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring lunch. The museum will have free dessert.

The Hampton History Museum is located at 120 Old Hampton Lane in Downtown Hampton. There is free parking in the garage across the street from the museum. For more information call 757-727-1102 or visit

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