Perhaps it’s because of its historic past. Perhaps it’s because of its aged and vintage buildings. Perhaps it’s because of all that cobblestone. But Shockoe Bottom is inundated with museums; in fact, it’s hard to go anywhere in the neighborhood without seeing or being near one.
Which, in my opinion, makes it Richmond’s real “Museum District.”
Perhaps the most well known, field-tripped, and ugh, sad, is the Virginia Holocaust Museum. A smaller but just as powerful museum as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, this gives personal accounts and accurate depictions of victims’ trials and suffering.
Then, on a less depressing note, just down the street is the Poe Museum. Many cities like to claim being home to Edgar Allan Poe. Sure, he was born in Boston. Sure, he moved with his cousin wife in New York City. Sure, he died a mysterious death in Baltimore. But he lived in Richmond for almost all of his life. And we have a museum commemorating just that, with artifacts and tours and excerpts from his writing. There’s even an overgrown and very eerie garden in the middle, inspired by his poem “The One in Paradise.”
Then, just outside of Shockoe Bottom sit an array of other museums that tried but didn’t quite make the neighborhood cut.
Take, for instance, the Richmond Railroad Museum, just across the river. A former railway station, this museum is small but mighty with its displays of train cars, locomotive engines, and related memorabilia.
Not far from that sits the Chimbarazo Medical Museum. This former Civil War hospital now exhibits medical tools used by (questionably experienced) doctors on injured soldiers during the war. Displays of surgical tools and medical kits, which frankly look more like something you’d find in your garage than a hospital, will make you appreciate modern medicine and look at tetanus in a whole different way.
So check out historic Shockoe Bottom: filled with legendary stories, significant moments, and museums to fill your head with obscure information.