Established in 1868, this is the oldest African American museum United States and interprets the history of Hampton University within the larger history of people of African descent in America. The museum features exhibits drawn from the museum's collection of over 9,000 African American, African, American Indian, and Asian and Pacific art and artifacts. The museum also includes the work of famous artists including John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, and Samella Lewis. The museum also offers educational programs such as lectures, children's workshops, and publications.
Hampton University Museum is located in Hampton, Virginia in the campus’s old library that has been transformed into a beautiful museum with over 9,000 objects of history and art from Native Americans, African Americans, Africans, Asian and Pacific Art. The museum is the oldest African American museum in the U.S. and one of the oldest museums in the state of Virginia. The museum was established in 1868 in honor of the University's founder and first president, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who believed that a good education influenced the head, the hand, and the heart. The meaning of the museum is to provide knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, diverse cultures and traditions; the reasoning behind the diverse cultural art and history.
The museum has three main exhibitions that remain open and unchanged every year: Soul & Spirit: Two Hundred Years of Art, Enduring Legacy: Native Peoples, Native Arts at Hampton, and The Art of Africa: Power, Beauty, Community. The Soul and Spirit: Two Hundred Years of Art exhibit chronicles the history of African American art and features works of art from the earliest African American painter whose work is extant (Joshua Johnson) to works by such contemporary artists as John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, and Jacob Lawrence. The Museum is the only institution in the nation to have such an exhibition on permanent display. Enduring Legacy: Native Peoples, Native Arts at Hampton opened in March 1999 consisting of American Indian Artifacts and Art. The Art of Africa: Power, Beauty, Community is Hampton University Museum's African Collection. This exhibition has over 200 artifacts from across sub-Saharan Africa and showcases the strength of Hampton's collection.The Art of Africa includes not only objects from the Museum's historic collections, but also a number of pieces that the Museum has acquired since the 1960s.
The museum also offers many different educational initiatives, such as, elementary, junior high, and high school programs. These programs introduce the children to the history of the museum's art collection and artifacts. There is also the Curiosity Room for very young children with activities aimed at helping them appreciate and explore the many facets of art.