Collections at Alexandria History Museum

The museum's collection includes the original 1839 lyceum building as well as over 5,000 objects related to the history of Alexandria, Virginia.

Page updated on Feb 17, 2020 at 9:53 AM

The original lyceum building is the museum's most treasured artifact, representing one of the country's best examples of Greek Revival architecture. Since its construction more than 150 years ago, The Lyceum has been used as a cultural center, a barracks and hospital, a private residence, an office building and Virginia's first Bicentennial Center. The early history of the building is told in an interpretive display located in the museum's Lecture Hall.

Although Alexandria is fortunate to have several specialized museums, Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum is the only one that collects and interprets artifacts and history from all periods of the City's past, from the periods before its founding in 1749 through the present day. The collection includes architectural fragments removed from the building during renovation, furniture, textiles, ceramics, silver, glass, records from Alexandria businesses, tools, art, newspapers, toys and almost anything else that would help to tell the community's story.

The museum collects artifacts representing all time periods of Alexandria and the surrounding region's past, as well as objects relevant for interpreting The Lyceum as a historic site. If you know of any artifacts that would be of interest to the museum, please contact the museum's Curator for more information at 703.746.4994.

Particular strengths of the collection

Silver, including late 18th- and early 19th-century pieces made by Charles Burnett, Adam Lynn, William Williams and John P. Latruite.  More on the silver collection. 

Teapot spout, Charles A. Burnett, ca. 1830

Ceramics, with an emphasis on 19th-century stoneware made and/or sold in Alexandria by John Swann, H.C. Smith, B.C. Milburn and E.J. Miller.  More on Alexandria stoneware.

Pitcher, John Swann, ca. 1819-1825; jar, H.C. Smith ca.1831-1847

Furniture, made by Charles Koones and the Green family business

Sideboard, Charles Koones

Original documents, including many personal and business papers

Bank of Alexandria bank note, 1815

Tools, representing a variety of skilled and unskilled trades and agricultural activities

George Washington is represented in  the museum's collection with items created to commemorate, and celebrate, his life and achievements. These three examples from the 19th century show he was greatly admired at home, nationally, and abroad.


Silver Collection

The Howard W. Smith, Jr. Silver Collection forms the core of the museum’s collection of locally made silver. This remarkable collection of 18th- and 19th-century silver from Alexandria and District of Columbia silversmiths was donated to the Museum in 2004 by the estate of Howard W. Smith, Jr., and was the focus of an exhibit, An Alexandria Legacy: The Howard W. Smith, Jr. Silver Collection, which ran from November 26, 2004 - March 27, 2005. Comprised of a variety of silver wares made in Alexandria from 1790 to 1850, the collection includes almost 600 pieces. It has added significantly to the knowledge and appreciation of local silversmiths and their work. Howard W. Smith, Jr., an Alexandria native and resident, was a collector and scholar of Alexandria-made silver for most of his life. His remarkable collection includes pieces made by Adam Lynn, John Pittman, Charles Burnett, John Adam, William Adam, William A. Williams, Mordecai Miller, John Gaither, Benjamin Barton, John Potter, and James Galt. Forms include tea sets, beakers, serving wares, ladles, and sugar tongs. An extensive collection of flatware also features the work of many lesser-known makers from the District of Columbia, and it includes forks, which are rare in early 19th century American silver flatware, as well as spoons.