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About Us

Protecting What’s Precious

The Commonwealth of Virginia is blessed with an “uncommon-wealth” of natural wonders, among the most diverse in the country. At the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Virginia, this natural heritage comes alive.

Opened in 1966 as the Junior Nature Museum and Planetarium through the combined efforts of the Junior League of Hampton Roads and the Warwick Rotary Club, the facility expanded and was renamed the Peninsula Nature and Science Center in 1976.

In 1987, the facility again expanded and was renamed the Virginia Living Museum, becoming the first living museum east of the Mississippi, combining the elements of a native wildlife park, science museum, aquarium, botanical preserve and planetarium.

Today, the Virginia Living Museum continues to be a museum leader in its use of native wildlife to present its message – stimulating knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the living world.

Visitors to the Living Museum encounter more habitats, wildlife and plant species than would be encountered in a lifetime of outdoor adventures in Virginia. The exhibits showcase all of the state’s regions from the upland coves of the Appalachian Mountains to the salty offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean and feature more than 245 different animal species.

The Museum’s unique exhibits are also a vital component in its extensive education programming. The Museum believes in hands-on education; that by experiencing science it will become memorable.

More than two million students have visited the Museum since 1987. All of the Museum’s classes are correlated to Virginia’s Standards of Learning and targeted to specific grade levels.

For Museum members and visitors, there are special programs and weekend safaris to the caves, swamps and fossil banks of Virginia, helping to bring science and nature up close and personal to young and old alike.

With more than 500 active volunteers, the Virginia Living Museum is testimony to the appreciation and overwhelming support it receives from the local community.

In the Strategic Plan adopted in 2012, the Museum expanded its mission into the area of human health, to explore the connections between humans, animals and the environment. With this new initiative, the Museum has begun expanding programming and exhibits into new areas designed to improve health awareness in our community and to promote the science education necessary for emerging health-related careers.



The Association of Zoos and Aquariums – AZA first granted the Virginia Living Museum Accreditation in 2014. Today, the Virginia Living Museum is among only 13 institutions dually accredited by both the AZA and AAM.



American Alliance of Museums - Accredited Museum


The Virginia Living Museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums -AAM since November 1976.


Virginia Green Accredited

The Virginia Living Museum is a certified Virginia Green attraction committed to minimizing its environmental impacts by preventing pollution wherever feasible in its operations.



The Virginia Living Museum was first certified as a Service Enterprise organization in February 2015.  Re-certified from 2017 through 2021 the  goal is to engage our volunteers in meaningful roles within our organization in order to strengthen our commitment to our community and its needs. The volunteer base at the Virginia Living Museum is dedicated  and each volunteer has a vital role to play.



The Virginia Living Museum is a certified 4-star organization by Charity Navigator for three years in a row, which only 25% of nonprofits can claim.


Vision Statement

The Virginia Living Museum will continue to be the premiere learning laboratory to showcase Virginia’s natural and living resources so that people, of all ages and in future generations, will understand and protect the balance of our natural world.

Mission Statement

Connecting people to nature through educational experiences that promote conservation.

The purpose of the Virginia Living Museum shall be to stimulate knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the biological and physical world, and to develop an understanding of its relationship to the environment of the planet and the universe beyond. This shall be accomplished by providing a variety of living interpretive exhibits and education programs for the public, students and educators that encourage a commitment to protection and conservation of our natural world and its delicately balanced components.

Read the Museum’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan.

Learn more about employment opportunities at the VLM.
Learn Museum’s history.