Holiday Hangover

A year-end message from Director Bill Martin.

 Lobby Education Center

After months of preparation and planning, the presents have been opened, the family-filled house is silent, and the refrigerator is full of leftovers that will never be eaten. The days between the Christmas and Hanukah holidays and New Year’s Day are very odd.  We find ourselves in that rare quiet moment suspended between the chaos and joy of the holidays and what we know will be a panicked beginning of the year.

It is boxing up the decorations to be neatly put back in the attic.  It is pretending that you are working and finding that last bargain.  It is also a time filled with anticipation about the challenges of the New Year – anxiety over unfinished work and unfulfilled promises – and memories of the people and events that have filled our lives over the last year. 

These emotions of the season seem to be particularly amplified for me. The past year at the Valentine we celebrated the biggest event in our history.  It had all the elements of a perfect holiday.  Over a decade of planning paid off with a renovation that was completed on time and on budget.

When we unwrapped our newly renovated historic buildings to the community, we unveiled some amazing things – a new lobby, refreshed galleries, a modern education center, and beautiful restrooms.

The coming year will showcase the opening of our first community gallery exhibition, Made in Church Hill on January 22, and the inaugural exhibition in the costume and textile galleries, Classical Allure: Richmond Style on May 3.

Isn’t it great when the presents actually get used?  

Our Valentine family (staff, volunteers, and trustees) came together to create memorable events for our friends and supporters. We had great food at all of our events and we skipped the fruitcake.

We celebrated our institutional traditions of community engagement and education. Our education programs have been at capacity this fall and in December we had the largest Court End Christmas celebration on record!

We reaffirmed our name – The Valentine – with brand new marketing and branding. 

We also  considered our future a created a new strategic plan to guide us.

When we look back, it seems impossible to accomplish all of this in just one year.

Together, we have given a great gift to our city and created a beautiful home with a welcoming living room for the Richmond region.

Yet for me there is a real sense of eagerness and expectation.  Our vision of a new museum has been revealed and the excitement of the renovation and reopening is fast becoming a memory. It’s now time to get out of the fog of the celebrations and embrace the energy of the New Year.

It is difficult to imagine a more exciting and demanding year than the past one at the Valentine. Once we recover from this interlude, we know that there is more that we need to do to bring Richmond’s stories to life.

There are objects in our collections that require care and research.

There are new exhibitions and public programs to create.

There are more neighborhoods and topics for our tours to explore.

And there are thousands of people that will discover themselves in the stories of Richmond’s past.

Yes, there are big things left to do.   After our experience this year and with your continuing support, we are more than ready for the coming opportunities and challenges of telling Richmond stories.

Thank you joining me and the Valentine on this journey and cheers to a great New Year!

Martin Signature
Bill Martin, Director
The Valentine
P.S. It’s never too late to become a Valentine Member and join us for some exciting exhibition openings, exclusive member events and a great new season of tours!

Holiday Events at the Valentine

Holiday Events!!

Read more

Charles W. Smith

To celebrate Smith’s work, the Valentine, with the help of Richmond based crowdfunding company Bonfire Funds, has created a shirt featuring Smith’s print “Backyards” (V.59.72.26), a view of iconic Richmond row houses that was named one of the 50 best prints of 1931. Through November 5, you can place your order for this special shirt that introduces the Valentine’s new brand in conjunction with Smith’s work. With an additional donation of $15 or more, you will also become a Valentine Member complete with all of the membership bells and whistles. Read more

The Last Word

Why am I having such a hard time writing this?

Why am I having such a hard time writing this?

Our director of public relations and marketing Domenick Casuccio (who has diligently put this message together each week) is ready and waiting for this last communication.

After 50 weekly updates, we are finally at opening week and I’m finding it difficult knowing exactly what to say.

Remarkably, we have been able to keep (relatively) calm as we hammered on for over a year.  

Our public programs staff has continued to serve the region with our education programs in schools. We have served more students in our outreach efforts that we did the previous year on-site.

Despite the chaos on the gallery floors below, our curatorial staff provided research access and care for the 1.6 million objects that have been entrusted to us by the community.

Even as the construction fences enveloped the block, our volunteers and visitor services staff never stopped giving tours of the 1812 John Wickham House and the Edward V. Valentine Scupture Studio. In fact, major new acquisitions were added to the house and a refreshed interpretative approach was introduced to provide information on the history of the museum and the Valentine family.  Weddings, special events and lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen all continued in the garden.

With the support of The Future of Richmond’s Past and TMI Consulting, our Community Conversations took us off Clay Street to explore the power of places across the city. From Shockoe Bottom to the Boulevard, we discussed the changing meanings of the city’s landscapes.

Bon Secours Richmond Health System and the Hollywood Cemetery Foundation kept us healthy by supporting our Richmond History Tours program. We offered almost 400 public walking tours that took people into undiscovered areas of the region, each with its unique histories.  (And that number doesn’t include the tours offered to schools and our step-on guide services.)

And all this, while the renovation created a new museum store and lobby, education center, exhibition galleries, and multi-purpose room. All of our spaces, including some fabulous new restrooms, are more welcoming to our visitors.  These incredible spaces will continue to serve future generations of the Richmond community.

We also planned a very exciting opening year. We will, through our programs and exhibitions in these new spaces, redefine and re-imagine the future of this very special place.

We open this week with “This is Richmond, Virginia.” The exhibition is built around the big questions (like “What do we value?”) that have echoed through Richmond’s history.  These questions are answered by objects from our diverse collections.

In January, we open our “Made in Church Hill” exhibition and begin this year’s Community Conversations. Both, generously funded by the Robins Foundation, will focus on communities that have experienced transitions over the past few years. The exhibition is a partnership with VCU, the University of Richmond, and Church Hill Activity Team (CHAT) who are collecting the stories of change in Church Hill.

Through our collaboration with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), this year’s series of conversations will include tours and other programming in selected Richmond neighborhoods to build our understanding of the changing demographics of the region.

There will be a unique photographic nod to the end of the American Civil War in March through a collaboration with the RVA Beard League and Terry Brown Photography.

Our first year of programming will close with the long awaited opening of our costume and textile galleries and the exhibition “Classical Allure” curated by our new Natalie L. Klaus Curator Kristen Stewart.  What a great way to end the first cycle of exhibitions and programs in our new place!

As we progressed through the year, and considered all of the new ideas for programs and exhibitions, we came to an important realization. Just like the city we love, this institution is hard to define.

With the support of our Board of Trustees and great research, we knew that we had to reaffirm what we always knew.

We are not just a gallery or a history museum, an historic house, a beautiful green space in downtown, or a walk through a Richmond neighborhood.

We are…plain and simple…The Valentine.

Hard to define but impossible not to love. We are the keeper of Richmond stories.

Okay…I’ve gone on way too long, but, as you can see, it has been an incredible year because of our incredible staff, volunteers, trustees and supporters. Many thanks to all of you!

It is now finally time to Keep Calm and Party On.

Martin Signature

Bill Martin, Director
The Valentine

P.S. Join today and be part of the grand opening week celebrations (Oct 20-24). A donation of $250+ secures your spot at the special Wednesday night Grand Reopening Celebration.


This is RVA

RVA50 Object 50 “Rainbow Pride Flag, circa 2010”

Rainbow Pride Flag, circa 2010
Nylon, metal
V.2012.70.01 Read more

Bad News

It is a world of change and turmoil.

 This is Richmond sculptures

Ebola outbreaks, racial tension, religious intolerance and anti-Semitism, international conflict and war…I spent my Sunday morning with the New York Times, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and morning TV news.

It is a world of change and turmoil.

Somehow the normal weekend tasks of doing the laundry and straightening up the house didn’t seem necessary. But the day changed quickly when I stopped by the Valentine to meet with our staff (yes, they came in on a Sunday morning!) to talk about our Grand Re-Opening next week and my mood shifted.

I found an amazing group of people that are ready to welcome guests to the Valentine and to share their own stories of our city.

I took a quick walk through the new This is Richmond, Virginia exhibition and realized that Richmonders throughout history have faced all of the threats and challenges that assaulted me in yesterday’s news.

Our story is certainly not perfect, but I found in our exhibition powerful objects that challenge and inspire us and embody our best and worst moments.

There have always been Richmonders who have confronted and (sometimes) avoided the issues of their day and of their world.

It is sharing of these important stories that we have worked so hard over the last year to embody in the transformed Valentine.

At the end of the day, I walked through the crowds at the Richmond Folk Festival and, as music from all over the world filled the air, I saw a very different Richmond and I imagined a different world.

Richmond still has important stories to tell.

The Valentine tells these Richmond stories.

Richmond ad

Martin Sig

Bill Martin, Director
The Valentine

P.S. Join today and be part of the grand opening week celebrations (Oct 20-24). A donation of $250+ secures your spot at the special Wednesday night Grand Reopening Celebration.


RVA50 Object 49 “Qipao or Cheongsam, circa 1970”

Qipao or Cheongsam, circa 1970

Worn by Ms. Julie Laghi
R.84.2007 Read more

The Truth

Now for the truth…

If you had asked me last week if we were going to be ready then I would have said that we were not going to make it. I do tend to be a “the glass is half empty” type of person.

Last Monday, as the first invitations to opening week activities were being mailed, I drove up Clay Street through the construction fences and the bustle of contractors and considered how we were going to get people into the building for Richmond History Makers and for the Grand Re-Opening events.

Clay no fence

I worried whether we would be ready for our first school program in the new Sara D. November Education Center. Our first school group comes next week!

November Center

I wondered if our amazing new multi-purpose room would be available to host its first bride which was yesterday! (They were a very brave couple that booked their wedding over a year ago as the renovations began.)

Multipurpose Room

We had a lobby without a desk to greet our visitors and no display cases for our new merchandise in the Valentine Store.

New Lobby

I even doubted that we could have the exhibition cases installed for the new exhibition This is Richmond, Virginia funded by Altria Group.

Exhibition Space Exhibition Cases

What a difference a week can make!
The glass is full thanks to magic from our friends at Kjellstrom+Lee and our remarkable staff!

Martin Sig

Bill Martin, Director
The Valentine
P.S. Join today and be part of the grand opening week celebrations (Oct 20-24). A donation of $250+ secures your spot at the special Wednesday night Grand Reopening Celebration.


RVA50 Object 48 “La Siesta Sign, circa 1982”

La Siesta Sign, circa 1982
Plywood, paint
R.69.2010 Read more

What’s in your closet?

Everyone likes to call us Richmond’s attic, and with over 1.6 million objects in our collection, that is probably a good name.

Cabinets Shelves

Everyone likes to call us Richmond’s attic, and with over 1.6 million objects in our collection, that is probably a good name. Our hope is that through our new programming such as our Community Conversations and exhibitions in the Stettinius Community Galleries that people will refer to us as Richmond‘s living room.

For many staff, the new closets are the most exciting part of our renovation.

For our public programs department, there is a new custom-designed space just for our educational outreach materials. Within the next few weeks, our “programs in boxes” will be moved from the Davis House to their new quarters in the Sara D. November Education Center. Cabinets and closets in the new Education Center are just waiting for supplies of clay and other materials used on-site by our teachers to fill their shelves.

For our visitors, we will have new lockers for purses and backpacks and new coatracks.

Small closets have been tucked next to the Stettinius Community Galleries for chairs and tables. A utility closet has even been created for cleaning supplies complete with a sink.

For the curators, a new holding area on the loading dock will allow for the review of objects before they are relocated into collections storage. Currently, the loading dock is stuffed with inventory for the new Valentine Store.

Richmond’s new living room is being finished so that lots of company can come in starting in a few short weeks and, just like home, we are happy to have great closets to hide the junk (not really) from our visitors.


Bill Martin, Director
The Valentine

P.S. Join today and be part of the grand opening week celebrations (Oct 20-24). A donation of $250+ secures your spot at the special Wednesday night Grand Reopening Celebration.
P.S.S. Don’t forget to order our new limited edition t-shirt via Bonfire Funds by October 6th! A portion of the sale supports our mission.