Valentine Intern Spotlight: Yelyzaveta Shevchenko

The Valentine’s Controversy/History intern shares her experiences conducting in-depth research for our conversation series, returning November 6!

VCU Student and Valentine Intern Yelyzaveta Shevchenko.

My name is Yelyzaveta Shevchenko. I am currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying History and Political Science. As an optimistic and objective problem solver, I initially came to study Political Science in attempt to understand and develop solutions to issues within our society. However, I soon realized that to properly appreciate contemporary problems, it is vital to understand their historic context. When I learned about the Controversy/History program at the Valentine and the internship that would allow me to research the historic context to modern controversies, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to apply my skills and engage with my community.

Each month, the Valentine hosts an evening that brings together historic and modern scholarship to discuss Richmond’s controversies with the local community. In the past, the program has addressed the issues of transportation, monuments, immigration and other concerns relevant to Richmond. With my previous experience with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources studying the histories of minority groups, I knew I wanted to provide an accessible but rigorously researched historical context to this year’s topics. Because the stories of many minority groups in America have been underrepresented in the historical narrative, I think it is necessary to study these histories to not only address the problems that they face, but to help restore a sense of cultural heritage to their communities.

 Research in the Valentine Archive.

My interest in education and public history stems from my own intrinsic curiosity about the world around me. From a young age, my parents instilled in me a love of learning, and my unique cultural heritage awakened an appreciation for the arts, culture and history. Working at a museum where all of those fields intersect has been a rewarding and informative experience and has inspired me to consider career options outside of academia.

I am currently researching segregation in education for the November 6 event. I am deeply grateful to Director of Public Programs Liz Reilly-Brown and Director of Public Relations and Marketing Eric Steigleder for the guidance they have given me in this project. Thanks to the Valentine Archives and VCU Special Collections, I have come across some intriguing leads that have inspired me to pursue additional independent research on the subject of the 1970-71 busing protests, which I will be presenting at VCU’s School of World Studies Conference. I look forward to taking my research further and following wherever my curiosity will lead me next.

Yelyzaveta Shevchenko is the Controversy/History Intern at the Valentine in Richmond.

Richmond Made: A Museum Store Q&A Series

Richmond Made is a new Q&A series focused on Richmond Makers featured in the Valentine Museum Store!

Our Museum Store Manager Brianna Landes recently sat down with Richmond-based author Steven K. Smith to talk about his Virginia Mystery book series. Young readers will find adventures set against the backdrop of famous Virginia locations, from Maymont to Mount Vernon. These books are perfect for students of Virginia history who are looking for thrills and chills heading into Halloween!

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer? What compelled you to start writing children’s books?

A: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Or a forest ranger. One or the other. But I have always loved reading, and even made a card catalogue for the books on my bedroom shelf. When I was in grade school I made a copyright page on all my book reports with my own publishing company name. Funny how no one else seemed to do that. I wrote poems and creative stories for school and fun, and wrote an annual Christmas letter each year after college. Its fun to look back and see clues to what might happen down the line, but it wasn’t until many years later that I even considered writing a book. When my youngest of three sons was born, I started a blog called MyBoys3 about the joys and craziness of a house with three young boys. A few years later, soon after we moved to Richmond from New Jersey in 2011, I made up a bedtime story for my older boys about two brothers who move to an old house in Virginia on the edge of the woods and discover lost coins in the creek. That turned into Summer of the Woods, my first book, and I haven’t looked back. I’m about to publish my ninth middle grade children’s book plus two books for adults.

Q: How do you find different places and topics to base your books on?

A: When I moved to Virginia, everything was new and exciting. I was a political science major in college and have always loved history. Sometimes I think when you grow up somewhere much of the surroundings become like wallpaper and are just ignored. But my new home in Richmond was dripping with history and I was eager to discover as much as I could. When I started my second book, I decided to brand the series The Virginia Mysteries, which was like a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew story set in historical places around Virginia. With so much history, the hardest part is narrowing the choices down to find the story that gets me most excited. If I’m excited by things, chances are that excitement will come out in my writing to my readers as well. I’ve written about places in Richmond like St. John’s Church, The Jefferson, Belle Isle, Hollywood Cemetery and Maymont. In the most recent two books in the series, I’ve gone further around Virginia and picked locations that are especially prominent school unit studies like Jamestown, George Washington, and Mount Vernon.

Q: Do your sons read your stories?

A: Having three boys running around the house has always been a source of inspiration for me. Even pulling things like the way brothers relate to each other and the occasional funny phrase is helpful. My wife and one or more of my kids are often my early readers or listeners to a rough draft. My youngest is in fourth grade, so he’s right in the middle of the target age range. My older two are teenagers and not surprisingly are beginning to think they are too cool for Dad’s books, but I still make them sometimes.

You can find a collection of Smith’s Virginia Mystery books and other items at the Valentine Museum Store


Valentine Intern Spotlight: Dominique Gay

Our Costume and Textiles Intern Dominique discusses her love of museums and shares her experience as a returning member of the Valentine team

Hi! I’m the Costume and Textiles intern Dominique. To begin, here is my list of the top three reasons that I think museums are the best place to learn something you didn’t know:

  1. There is a vast amount of opportunity to find something riveting and when you do, it’s up to you if you want to find out more.
  2. You can come back as many or as few times as you want (or at least for the extended amount of time the exhibition is open).
  3. You are in control of how you want to learn.

A museum is a place that houses interesting objects, stories, and facts that make you re-examine what it means to be human. And in my opinion, it is the job of a museum curator (my dream job) to look at what’s in the museum’s collection and find the thing (whether it’s a story, concept, fact, etc.) that would make an audience do just that: re-examine what it means to be human. The Valentine is Richmond’s city history museum. The Valentine curators mine the museum’s collection for stories that make audiences re-examine what it means to be a Richmonder.

When I was a kid, museums were (and still are) my favorite place to learn. Growing up with ADHD made learning in primary school difficult because of limited tolerance for the diverse ways kids’ brains develop and function. However, in museums I always found freedom and solace surrounding the notion of learning. I didn’t realize working in a museum was even something I could be a part of until I met Ms. Kristen Stewart, the Valentine’s Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costume and Textiles. She was my professor for Contemporary Fashion at Virginia Commonwealth University, a course that examines Western fashion history from the 19th century to the modern day.

One day, Ms. Stewart took the class on a field trip to The Valentine where she showed us a few incredible historic pieces in the costume collection and a little behind the scenes tour. I was blown away by Ms. Stewart’s immense knowledge of the garments outside of lectures in the classroom and inside the context of a museum and tangible learning. She can look at garment and deduce so much information about the garments makeup while telling the story of the person who wore it and of time period the garment was worn. That moment made me realize working with historical objects and garments as a way of sharing human experiences throughout history and across cultures is something I want to dedicate most of my life to. After that trip, I applied for a Valentine internship and have been working here for the past two semesters.

I am a 4th year World and Textiles Studies student and my focus of study includes how garments and objects can illustrate and bring to light stories of the past, present and even future. Of course, I really tried to tailor my course work to best fit the skills needed to be a museum curator, which also helped immensely with this internship. So far, I’ve accompanied Ms. Stewart on curatorial accession trips, assisted with research for the current exhibition in special collections of libraries and in the museums private archives, helped to construct mannequins and exhibition props and digitally documented shoes dating back to the early 20th century.

Working here has been quite a journey and I can’t thank Ms. Stewart, the Costume and Textiles Technician Elise and the museum enough for letting me be a part of it.

Dominique Gay just completed her internship at the Valentine in Richmond.

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Alejandra Hatcher-Mendoza

Our Finance intern Alejandra wrote a blog in Spanish to share what inspired her to apply for an internship at the Valentine

Me llamo Alejandra Hatcher-Mendoza y soy de la gran ciudad de Guadalajara, México. Estoy por empezar mi último año de la universidad en Virginia Commonwealth University estudiando Negocios con enfoque en Finanzas y Economía. Hace poco, me dieron la posición de tesorero y relaciones públicas en mi Financial Management Association (FMA) por parte de la universidad.

Cuando acepté esta oferta, sabía que “The Valentine” iba a ser mi segunda familia. Sabía esto por una de sus exhibiciones en el museo; esta exhibición fue Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond. Esta exhibición contaba nuestra historia; la versión verdadera. En esta exhibición, explicaron cómo Latinos transformaron su nuevo hogar aquí en Richmond y como consiguieron traer su comunidad. Para esta exhibición, usaron fotografías y objetos que son importantes para los Latinos.

Soccer ball used by La Asociación de Hispano Americanos de Richmond, Gift of Andrea Chávez, Photo by Terry Brown

Entre estos objetos, un balón de futbol estaba en la galería principal, y una muñeca con su vestido de quinceañera y una tiara. Ahora, todos sabemos que el fútbol es el mejor deporte, al menos eso pensamos los Latinos. Y los quinces, son primordial para una jovencita que está entrando en su etapa de mujer. En sus fotografías, ellos captaron nuestros barrios, sus colores brillantes, la forma en la que jugamos, y la importancia de la familia. Los Latinos valoramos a la familia; siempre ponemos primero a la familia. En esta exhibición, había una fotografía donde se encontraba una gran familia, nosotros tenemos familias enormes, y me dejó sin palabras. Ellos capturaron nuestra esencia; me da tanta felicidad ver como “The Valentine” atrapó nuestra comunidad y me hicieron sentir bienvenida.

Estoy en mi séptimo semana de las prácticas y ha sido un placer trabajar directamente con Donna Kolba mi supervisora. He trabajado con recibos, con donaciones, actualizar su inventario, y clasificar sus expedientes. Trabajar en “The Valentine” es posiblemente una de las mejores oportunidades que he tenido. Sus directores y su staff cuidan de Richmond y de su comunidad.



My name is Alejandra Hatcher-Mendoza and I am from the big city of Guadalajara, Mexico. I am a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Business with a focus in Finance and Economics. Not long ago, I was appointed for the PR and treasurer position at VCU’s Financial Management Association (FMA) which I am thrilled to be a part of.

When I accepted this offer, I knew The Valentine was going to be my second family. I knew this because of one of their exhibitions; this exhibition was Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond, which I got to see and learn from it. They told our story; the actual version. The exhibition explained how Latinos transformed their new home here in Richmond and how they managed to bring in their own culture. Through images and objects, they represented the Latino community.

Their most striking objects were a soccer ball which was placed in the main gallery, and a quinceañera doll with a tiara which was found in the lobby. Now, soccer is the most beautiful sport that was ever created, at least that’s what most Latinos think. A quinceañera party is where the teenage girl transforms or blooms into womanhood. Their photographs revealed where we grew up (some call it barrio), where and how we played, and the importance of family. The Latino community values family; we’ll always put family first. This exhibition had a family picture which left me speechless. They merely captured our essence; it gives me joy to see how The Valentine caught my community and made me feel welcome.

I am in my seventh week of my internship and it has been a pleasure working directly with Donna Kolba. I’ve managed receipts intakes, updated their inventory, and classified office files. Working for The Valentine is hands down one of the greatest opportunities I’ve ever gotten. Their directors and staff care for Richmond and its community.

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Kara Garvey

Our General Collections intern Kara discusses her interest in ethnographic history and the Valentine’s Native American ceramics collection

My name is Kara Garvey and I recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Anthropology and Classical Studies. While at college, I worked in an archaeology lab, studying the Native Americans of the Chesapeake region of Virginia. This experience sparked my interest in ethnographic history and artifacts, especially pottery. This attracted me to the Valentine’s General Collections internship focusing on the museum’s Native American ethnographic ceramics collection.

As part of the project, I am assisting the collections team with cataloging archaeologically-recovered pottery shards in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). This piece of legislation requires that all institutions receiving federal funding return culturally significant Native American items (such as funerary or sacred objects) to the affiliate tribe. As part of my internship, I designed and implemented cataloguing procedures for Native American pottery for inclusion in the 2018 NAGPRA summary.

A highlight of my internship was a visit to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VADHR). I was able to use their comparative collection to expand my knowledge of Native American pottery types. The staff at VADHR was generous with their knowledge and experience.

My internship at the Valentine has expanded my knowledge of archaeology and Native American material culture as well as provided me with first-hand experience with the day-to-day management of museum collections. I am pleased to have contributed to the Valentine’s mission of preserving and interpreting Richmond’s history and I cannot imagine a more rewarding way to spend the summer.

Kara Garvey is a General Collections intern at the Valentine in Richmond.

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Leah Epting

Our Archives Intern Leah discusses her appreciation for Richmond’s history and sharing stories that have long gone untold

Leah Epting with William James Hubard’s papers

My name is Leah Epting and I’m a Masters of Information Science candidate at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science. This summer I found my way back to Richmond for a summer internship in the archives of the Valentine.

I lived in the city for eight years and came to love the rich history and powerful stories it had to tell, as well as the beauty, fun and food. Now, in the processing of the Museum’s archival collections, I can help tell Richmond Stories and expand the narrative by being attentive to previously unheard voices. From my recent work on the papers of the artist William James Hubard to those of early 19th century banker and leading citizen John Adams Smith, I’ve been able to appreciate the depth and complexity of the city’s history and the interconnectedness of so many of its early residents. I’ve also been able to put into practice the archival principals that had previously been only academic.

Sketch by William James Hubard in a letter caricaturing Parisians during his 1838 visit there

What has been most satisfying is the chance to shine a light on the stories of so many who weren’t previously considered important by highlighting their roles in the Valentine collection. While cataloging, I’ve been able to highlight the lives of women, enslaved people and the mentally ill. Their experiences were clearly important to the writers of the documents, so they deserve be a part of the historic record. The reality of supporting the museum’s mission and of creating meaningful connections and inclusion through the archives has been a great experience. Learning about all of the ways in which the archives support exhibitions, other collections and offer research opportunities has been a fascinating journey that I hope to continue. I’m deeply grateful for the kind attention of my supervisor and mentor Meg Hughes and to all the other staff from whom I’ve learned so much.

Leah is an intern in the Valentine Archives in Richmond.

A View From a High Schooler

High-schooler Phylicia Winston recently shadowed one of our curators as part of Collegiate School’s new Trailblaze Career Mentorship Program. Below are Phylicia’s reflections from her week exploring the museum field.


Phylicia with Collegiate School ephemera housed in the Valentine’s archives.

My name is Phylicia Winston. I am currently a rising senior a Collegiate School in Richmond. Recently, I had the opportunity to shadow Mrs. Meg Hughes, Curator of Archives at the Valentine to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in a museum. I was able to take part in this unique opportunity through a new program at my school called Trailblaze.

Trailblaze gives you the chance to shadow a Collegiate Alumni in a field you would like to pursue or by interest. My time spent at The Valentine is not what I expected it to be. I had a very busy week ahead of me. SI got to take a part in was a behind the scene tour of the museum and the 1812 Wickham House, I sat in on a board meeting, handled ephemera, and worked on past and new exhibits.

One of the highlights of the week was definitely working with an older exhibition focusing on neon signs around Richmond. I think that was one of my favorites because I got to learn what is involved in deconstructing an exhibition. Overall, I loved this experience. I enjoyed getting to be in downtown Richmond and learning about a new field and passion: history. I enjoyed working and getting to know the wonderful and amazing staff at this museum.

I also loved being able to spend time outdoors in the Valentine Garden. I want to thank everyone who made my week amazing and exciting. I want to thank Collegiate for providing me with this opportunity to spend time at such an amazing place. Finally, I want to thank Mrs. Hughes and the Valentine Museum for letting me get hands on experience.

Phylicia Winston recently shadowed Curator of Archives Meg Hughes at the Valentine in Richmond. 

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Sophia McCrimmon

Our PR & Marketing Intern Sophia discusses her love of Richmond history and shares her expectations as a new member of the Valentine team.

My name is Sophia McCrimmon and I am a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia working as a public relations and marketing intern at the Valentine this summer.

I found my way to the Valentine primarily thanks to a love for Richmond’s complex and robust history. As a lifelong Richmonder and history enthusiast, I grew up exploring many of the meaningful spaces in and around this city – from Hollywood Cemetery to Cold Harbor Battlefield. Thinking about the stories hidden amidst familiar streets made me interested in the politics of space and ideologies of memory.

As a history major and historical tour guide at UVa, I’ve had the opportunity to explore these topics inside and outside of the classroom. I have learned that history is human – both profound and profane, painful and personal. I have also learned that history is powerful – it can restore agency and dignity to forgotten stories, change perspectives through uncomfortable conversations and forge empathy across and within communities. That’s why I think history should be a living field, based on discovery and conversation.

When I first visited the Valentine, the museum’s mission struck a chord with me. I felt inspired by the Valentine’s focus on intersectionality and relevance in its exhibitions and I loved the museum’s role as a forum for community education and discussion. I am so excited to help realize that mission through my work in public relations this summer. In this position, I hope to help make our history more accessible by reaching out to new audiences, publicizing provocative exhibitions, and sparking conversations on social media. I’m also eager to explore the museum’s robust archives, investigating compelling new stories that add to the complex history of this city. My enthusiasm for the Valentine’s exciting upcoming exhibitions makes me thrilled to help reach out to the Richmond community and cultivate interest in this unique institution.

Sophia McCrimmon is an intern at the Valentine in Richmond. 

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Sabrina Connor

Our PR & Marketing Intern Sabrina introduces herself and shares her experiences and expectations as one of the newest members of the Valentine team.

My name is Sabrina Connor (not to be confused for Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and I am from the rainbow island of Anguilla in the Caribbean. I am a rising senior at Virginia Union University studying Mass Communications with a focus in Public Relations. I was recently inducted into the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society and I am a member of the university’s Honors Program. Additionally, I serve as the captain of the Lady Panther’s tennis team, the business manager of the Student Government Association and a French and English tutor. A few of my many passions include travelling, exploring different cultures, discovering new music and art and getting lost in captivating books.

My summer goal was to find an internship that not only allowed me to develop and enhance my communication skills, but tied into my interests as well.  Sure enough, I walked into my school’s spring career fair with this goal in mind, and the bright, red Valentine sign immediately caught my attention. After learning about the details of the internship program and the museum’s history and purpose, I quickly applied, and was later accepted for the Kip Kephart Foundation’s Bobby Chandler Internship in the PR and Marketing Department. I was extremely pleased about this opportunity because I knew working at the Valentine would provide the perfect space to get hands on experience in my area of study and educate me about the history and charm of Richmond, my new home.

I am now in the second week of my internship and I have done a range of media related tasks such as press releases, photography, social media management and strategic messaging. Throughout the remainder of this internship I will absorb as much as I can so I can apply everything I’ve learned towards my future career goals. I thoroughly enjoy the welcoming, friendly and educational work environment that the Valentine offers and look forward to expanding my knowledge through this summer internship!

Sabrina Connor is an intern at the Valentine in Richmond. 

76 Years of Neighborhood Tours!

The Claiborne Robins, Jr. Director of Public Programs Liz Reilly-Brown discusses the history of the Valentine’s neighborhood tours.

FIC.031797; “Carrington Row Tour”; Oct 28 1967; The Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the fall of 1942, the Valentine and historic preservation champion Mary Wingfield Scott launched a series of walking tours exploring Richmond. The Valentine had recently opened the exhibition Old Richmond Neighborhoods, a project that grew out of Scott’s efforts to document the city’s vulnerable historic neighborhoods and architecture. These early walking tours brought Richmond citizens together to explore their city, visiting areas such as Gamble’s Hill, Church Hill, Oregon Hill, Jackson Ward and Hollywood Cemetery.

Tours were among the methods utilized by Scott to spread the gospel of historic preservation. Scott educated residents about important examples of architecture and historic places in their own backyards, sites she believed were in need of saving from ongoing threats of demolition, disrepair and development.

V.85.37.4033; “Group Tours Restoration Project in Church Hill”; 1972; The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Thus, the Valentine’s tour program was born (though not always offered consistently and stewarded for a time by Historic Richmond Foundation). Today, the museum continues Scott’s work by providing Richmonders with opportunities to explore their city by foot, bus and bike, with the goal of sharing diverse stories of Richmond residents and exploring the ever-changing landscape.

In my personal experience organizing the tour program, some of the most rewarding moments have occurred spontaneously as tour takers share their own stories. On a tour of Battery Park last spring, our group discussed the shifting demographics of the neighborhood in the last seventy years, and two attendees recalled their personal experiences during school desegregation. They soon discovered that they were former elementary school classmates, one white and one black.

2018 will mark 76 years since the first Valentine walking tours, and we have many exciting things in the store for the coming season.  Favorite tours will be back, such as Hollywood Cemetery, our downtown City Center Walks and beloved areas like Church Hill, Jackson Ward and Scotts Addition. New additions to our tour program will take attendees to different parts of the city and provide new perspectives, such as a stroll along the Floodwall exploring the history of Richmond and the James River, a walk through the Broad Street Arts District, a tour and work day at Evergreen Cemetery and an exploration of Carytown’s LGBTQ+ history.

We hope that by continuing to explore our city and unearth the important stories of its residents, we honor the legacy of Mary Wingfield Scott, and the numerous people who have contributed to the diversity, culture and history of Richmond.

On behalf of the Valentine, I invite you to join us for tours, April through December. More info can be found at

Liz Reilly-Brown is the Claiborne Robins, Jr. Director of Public Programs at the Valentine