The long-term exhibitions for the University Chapel include the main exhibition "Not Unmindful of the Future: Educating to Build and Rebuild a Nation", as well as interpretation in Lee's Office. A changing exhibition gallery displays rotating exhibits.

Changing Exhibition: UNDERCOVER: Hidden Elements in Two Iconic Portraits
On View at the University Chapel & Museum

The Chapel, c. 1920, showing portraits donated by Custis Lee, William Mercer, and others.
The Chapel, c. 1920, showing portraits donated by Custis Lee, William Mercer, and others.
W&L Special Collections Archives, Franklin L. Riley Papers 0060.

In 1897, upon his retirement as 12th president of Washington and Lee University, Custis Lee gave to the institution his 1772 family portrait of George Washington as Colonel in the Virginia Regiment by Charles Willson Peale. It became part of the university “portrait gallery,” created in 1875 and located in the University Chapel. The posthumous portrait of General Lee by Theodore Pine, purchased in 1907, was added to the gallery between 1911 and 1929. All portraits were removed in 1962 during the chapel’s restoration, and only those of Lee and Washington returned in 1963.

The university replaced these historic paintings in October 2018 with portraits that are contemporary to the namesakes’ distinct contributions: the “Athenaeum” version of President George Washington’s portrait by Gilbert Stuart painted first in 1796 when Washington gave shares of James River canal stock to Liberty Hall Academy, and a portrait of Robert E. Lee painted by J. Reid in 1866 when Lee served as the 11th president of Washington College.

This exhibition features Washington’s portrait by Peale and Lee’s portrait by Pine and reveals some of the hidden elements in these two iconic portraits.


Ceramics in the Reeves Collection

The Reeves Collection contains a number of ceramics associated with the University's namesakes, George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Some of the pieces here were owned and used by Washington or Lee, while others commemorate them or their activities.