Religious Freedom’s Possibility

On Religious Freedom Day, William L. Sachs, the Priest Associate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, reflects on the importance of religious freedom and the integral role of the Valentine First Freedom Center

Interior of the Valentine First Freedom Center, located in historic Shockoe Slip.

Few words have more appeal, and more apparent meaning, than “freedom.” The motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sic semper tyrannis (Thus always to tyrants) gives an important clue to what freedom represents. Arbitrary, unconstrained power must not restrict anyone. Freedom from undue influence has been a hallmark of American life.

Virginia’s role in the advance of American freedom has been significant, of course. A crucial component, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, passed the General Assembly on January 16, 1786. A shortened version became the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the basis of the Bill Rights, in 1789.

Since the two-hundredth anniversary of the Virginia Statute, the First Freedom Center has sought to educate the public about religious freedom and to honor those who have advanced it globally. Now affiliated with the Valentine, the First Freedom Center maintains an exhibit at the corner of South 14th and East Cary Streets in Richmond.

Why is education about religious freedom necessary? The meaning of freedom seems clear: religious freedom, and the other freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is freedom from unwanted influence by any institution. The ideal of freedom from extends to religious groups. The separation of church and state protects religions of all sorts from government interference. As citizens, we are free to pursue any religious affiliation, or none, as we choose.

The Virginia Statute did not reject religion. Nor does the First Amendment mean that religion is excluded from social influence. Jefferson’s draft of the Statute includes reference to God as the “holy author” of human freedom. Jefferson was less concerned with divine than with human intrusion into the right to believe. The subtle message of the Statute concerns not merely freedom from, but freedom for flourishing of faith. Freedom must be active, including religious initiative in society.

The Valentine First Freedom Center Monument, Jay Paul

The Virginia Statute eradicated government restrictions on the practice of religion. Less than fifty years after the Statute’s passage, an astute French observer cited religion’s pivotal role in American life. Alexis de Tocqueville assessed American life in his book, Democracy in America. There Tocqueville cited religion as the basis of American society’s strength.

The meaning of religious freedom is two-fold, Tocqueville concluded. On the one hand, religion encourages morality and order. All religions, regardless of their beliefs, equip people to be good citizens. Faith prompts people to come together in local gatherings. There people deepen in belief and grow in social cooperation. Local faith communities form the basis of democratic life: freedom from restraint must inspire freedom for social good.

The annual observance of the Virginia Statute, January 16, follows observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, January 15. A minister, King embodied the ideal of religious freedom. Regardless of who we are or what we believe, we can work together for the betterment of all. Freedom’s possibility lies in our hands.

William L. Sachs is the Priest Associate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond.

Valentine School Programs: Fall round up!

Student Programs and Tours Manager Marisa Day provides an overview of some of the exciting and innovative student programs the Valentine will be offering this fall.

How does the Valentine continue its mission to educate, engage and challenge a diverse audience? Through our robust selection of school programs, of course! This past fall, our Valentine educators and tour guides served nearly 7,000 students in the Richmond metro region through museum programs, outreach visits and walking and bus tours. All of our programs are led by our wonderful educators who use their love of history and interactive components to encourage students and teachers to explore Richmond’s story – past and present.

A few of the programs the Valentine will be offering this school year includes:

Let’s Make History: Inspired by the wallpaper recently installed in the McClurg Bedroom and supported by funding from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, this new program explores the creation of home décor found in the 1812 Wickham House. Students discuss 19th century design and create an actual print with woodblocks based off the wallpaper design in the 1812 Wickham house and made by Jake Urbanski of Studio TwoThree. Students and teachers have enjoyed engaging with the museum in a new way and trying their hand at an artisanal skill. For more information on this program, click here.

Jake Urbanski of Studio TwoThree walking students through the printmaking activity.

History Makers in Richmond: Mapping the Monuments: In this program, first and third graders learn about a number of Richmond history makers (Maggie Walker, Thomas Jefferson, Arthur Ashe and others) who shaped local and national history. This field trip also includes a visit to Edward Valentine’s sculpture studio where educators discuss the process used to create and construct monuments. The program culminates with an opportunity for students to design their own monument.

Students exploring the Edward Valentine sculpture studio.

Our Changing Community: Who doesn’t want to play games in a museum? In this program students tour the 1812 Wickham House, play games and participate in activities to learn about how the lives of children in Richmond has changed over the last two centuries.

Students playing historical games as part of the Our Changing Community program.

Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond School Visits: This fall, with programming created and coordinated by our curator Wanda Hernandez, the Valentine has been offering student visits of Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond, the region’s first bilingual exhibition. Recently, students from JR Tucker’s ELL and Spanish Immersion programs toured Nuestras Historias in Spanish and English and participated in activities that encouraged them to think critically about different moments in U.S. history that involved or impacted people of color, including Mendez v. Westminster and Brown v. Board of Education.

Wanda Hernandez touring a school group through Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond.

Of course these are only a selection of what we are excited to offer the students of the Richmond region. The Valentine Public Programs team is always willing to work with teachers to offer materials and programming that is relevant to the classroom curriculum and important to educating engaged and thoughtful citizens.  If you are interested in learning about ways that you can bring students to the Valentine (or bring our programs to your school) please visit our website, https://thevalentine.org/programs-tours/student/ or contact education@thevalentine.org.

Marisa Day is the Student Programs and Tours Manager at the Valentine

Typhoid Fever!

Curator of Archives Meg Hughes discusses our changing understanding of Richmond’s Typhoid outbreaks and Pandemic: Richmond, the Valentine’s upcoming exhibition 

In 2014, museum technician Laura Carr wrote about the digitization of a series of lantern slides donated by the Richmond Health Department to the Valentine in 1981. The slides depict efforts to eradicate typhoid fever in Richmond. At the time, we did not have a lot of information to share about the images. Happily, recent staff research has brought to light new details about this interesting collection.

V.81.99.48

The Richmond Health Department formed in 1906. One of its early initiatives (1907) was to investigate 433 cases of typhoid fever, creating the city’s first systematic study of infectious disease. In 1908, Dr. Ernest C. Levy (1868–1938), head of the Richmond Health Department, published the survey findings in The Old Dominion Journal of Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Levy discussed the generally declining rate of typhoid fever cases in Richmond from 1880 to 1907 but noted several outbreaks of the disease in 1881, 1884 and 1900.

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One change in our understanding of the lantern slide collection relates to the overall city map that begins the series.

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We originally understood the solid circles to indicate cases of typhoid fever, in which case the disease appeared to concentrate within the heart of the city. This is not the case. In fact, the solid circles represent properties with city-supplied water. Hollow circles represent properties with water provided by wells or springs. While one cluster of outbreaks in Church Hill was determined to come from a typhoid-infected confectioner, the larger proportion of cases were from properties on the outskirts of the city, generally using water from wells or springs and lacking sewage systems. Viewing the circles with this new information completely changes one’s interpretation of the map.

V.81.99.01

Museum visitors will learn more about Richmond’s fight against typhoid fever and other infectious diseases in May 2018 when Pandemic: Richmond opens in the Valentine’s Lower Level. This exhibition explores the repeated storms of disease that have swept through the city. From influenza to cholera to polio to AIDS/HIV, Pandemic: Richmond investigates how Richmonders have fought silent, invisible enemies and tells their stories of both loss and survival

Meg Hughes is the Curator of Archives at the Valentine

Movin’ On Up: Change Comes to the 1812 Wickham House

Collection Project Manager/Registrar Alicia Guillama on transforming an historic home one item at a time.

It can be difficult to equate words like “change” and “new” to a Richmond landmark as historic as the 1812 John Wickham House. After all, this home has been around for over 200 years – what could possibly be different?

But like any home, the 1812 John Wickham House is in a constant state of change. In fact, interpretation of the Wickham House has evolved over the decades. Most recently, the Valentine has been working to redesign the tour experience by allowing for more visitor interaction within each room.  In support of that effort, the museum was focused on removing and returning several long-term loans of antique furniture and decorative arts.

In 1994, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan loaned the Valentine 33 pieces of furniture and decorative arts for use in the 1812 Wickham House. These items spanned every size and shape, from a single candlestick to a large square piano. They were all beautiful pieces, but they no longer fit the Valentine’s interpretive vision.  As Collection Project Manager/Registrar, it was my job to ensure that these museum-quality pieces made it home safely. If you think packing and moving the contents of your home would be complicated, imagine moving these antique pieces over 600 miles!

Working with Josh Aubry of Custom Art Installations, we created a packing and crating plan for each of the 33 pieces based upon their object type and respective needs.  This included a creative solution for packing 24 chairs (we decided to keep them in place using seat belts) and perfecting the housing for the sensitive marble table top and piano. As a general rule, less is more when it comes to preparing objects for transport. That is why our goal was to secure the objects as safely as possible while also requiring the least amount of intervention during transit. After all was said and done, 14 crates were loaded into a tractor trailer truck that spanned half a city block.

The impact of removing these pieces was most immediately noticeable in the Wickham House Drawing Room. It was shocking to see this once overflowing space so empty. But just as new beginnings are both bitter and sweet, I can’t help but be excited about the possibilities and new objects that will help us tell the story of the home, the family and Richmond for years to come.

 

Alicia Guillama is the Collection Project Manager/Registrar.

Out of the Rat’s Nest and into the Bedchamber

The Elise H. Wright Curator of the General Collection David Voelkel provides an update on the new wallpaper installation that all began with a chance discovery in a rat’s nest. 

The Valentine has been working tirelessly to reinterpret for a new audience the restored interiors of the 1812 Wickham House to reflect the period before the 1839 death of John Wickham. Recent work has focused on the McClurg bedchamber. Originally the Wickham’s principal guest room, the McClurg Bedchamber became the home of Mrs. Wickham’s widower father Dr. James McClurg from 1816 until his death in July 1823.

This project began with an important discovery during the house restoration: a tiny fragment of wallpaper pulled from a 19th century rat’s nest (watch the Hidden History Segment from WRIC). The New York firm Adelphi Paper Hangings worked from this scrap coupled with another nearly-matching full section of wallpaper from Historic New England’s archives to create our “Wickham Stripe” wallpaper. Located in Sharon Springs, New York, Adelphi Paper Hangings is a small, artisanal manufacturer of historically accurate block printed wallpapers. The “Wickham Stripe” wallpaper was block-printed by Adelphi staff using custom-carved pear wood printing blocks and distemper paint on a special French-made paper which is hand-seamed using rabbit glue.

Wallpaper installation is an artisan craft that requires years of experience to become a master hanger. Adelphi recommended Brian Conn of Oceans Wallcovering LLC for our current project. We could not have been in better hands this past week as the paper literally rolled out and up onto our walls – a first in our restoration of the Wickham House!

In addition to measuring the McClurg Bedchamber to place the order for the correct amount of paper (always factor in an extra 15 -20% for pattern-matching and possible future repairs!), Conn advised the museum to thoroughly prepare the existing plaster walls by filling any holes or cracks, smoothing them down with sandpaper and applying an oil-based primer. Conn installed an acid-free liner paper over the newly painted and sanded walls to ensure the best results for the “Wickham Stripe” wallpaper.

Come see the final results in person during our free Court End Christmas Open House on Sunday, December 10 from noon to 5 p.m.!

David Voelkel is the Elise H. Wright Curator of the General Collection

Santiago’s T-Shirt

Wanda Hernández, Curator of Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond discusses how DACA has impacted one of the individuals featured in the exhibition

Photo: Dan Currier

During the creation of Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond, I interviewed over 60 Latinos in the Richmond area. One of the individuals I interviewed was Santiago, who shed light on the complexities of immigration policy and how it impacts his day-to-day life. At the time of the interview, Santiago was completing his last year at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. However, On September 5, 2017, Santiago received life-altering news.

While parents conversed at bus stops, kids loaded school buses and teachers prepared their classrooms, President Trump announced the discontinuation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order issued by President Obama in 2012 to protect undocumented youth from deportation. The optimism that accompanied the new school year evaporated for approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.

In order to qualify for DACA, the applicant has to be 30 years old or under, have arrived in the U.S. prior to the age of 16 and lived here for five consecutive years. Additionally, the applicant must be an outstanding citizen, maintain a clean criminal record, be in school or have graduated, or be a military veteran. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants met these rigorous requirements. Until 2012, a Dreamer’s legal status was a well-guarded secret for many Richmonders like Santiago.

In 2002, Santiago and his family immigrated to Richmond when he was 9 years-old. Undeterred by the change in scenery, language and culture, Santiago quickly adapted. He learned English after only about one year in the United States and fell in love with the universal language of numbers, math.

By the time he got to high school in Henrico County in 2008, Santiago was an exceptional student, a leader in various honor societies, a member of the robotics team and captain of the soccer team. However, unlike many teens, Santiago moved around due to immigration raids occurring in the area in the 2000s. He also contemplated whether he could, or even deserved to attend college. Without a nine digit number, Santiago was an undocumented teenager.

Hispanic College Institute t-shirt, ca. 2010, Gift of Santiago, photo: Terry Brown

While he was an active member of his school community, his classmates couldn’t understand the duality he faced every day. Thankfully, in 2010, Santiago encountered a network of immigrants and their allies, who were committed to supporting one another in personal, educational and professional endeavors. Santiago found his support system at the Hispanic College Institute (HCI), a week-long college preparatory conference for students across Virginia. Santiago described that for the first time, he felt a sense of familia, and grew close with others he could relate to. The mentors and friends he met that summer in 2010 gave him hope in a future he had thought would always be out of reach.

In June 2012, when Santiago graduated from high school, he benefited from DACA. While DACA did not allow him to receive federal financial aid, he did obtain a work permit and driver’s license. However, it was the encouragement Santiago received from his HCI familia that ultimately led him to pursue education at a four-year institution. In 2014, Santiago received a full scholarship to attend Virginia Tech, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Engineering in May 2017.

Santiago’s story is represented in our exhibition Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond through his HCI t-shirt.

There are organizations in Richmond, the Commonwealth and throughout the United States like the Hispanic College Institute that provide support and opportunity to deserving individuals, regardless of legal status. As many in our communities fear for the future and safety of our undocumented neighbors, there are stories like Santiago’s that remind us that the dream is not lost.

 

Wanda Hernández is the curator of Nuestras Historias: Latinos in Richmond and the Latino Programming Coordinator at the Valentine.

No Stranger to Controversy!

A Valentine Intern Explains the Research Process for our new “Controversy/History” series

When I began my internship with the Public Programs department at the Valentine, I was eager to begin the research for a brand new program that was going to take the place of the long-running Community Conversations. The Valentine had just announced “Controversy/History”, a new community engagement series that aims to explore contentious, present-day issues by comparing historic debates with modern data. The first event takes place on November 7 and focuses on voting rights and redistricting. This was my first assignment as an intern, and I was just as nervous as I was excited.

I knew the research I would be conducting for this new series would be feasible thanks to the vast historical resources at the Valentine and the surrounding Richmond area.

Through many hours of research I was able to delve into fascinating stories, dissect them and illustrate the kind of nuanced historical narrative that would help put a contemporary twist on timeless historical topics. This is the goal of the “Controversy/History” series and is central to the mission of the Valentine. Through these conversations, we aim to use history as a bridge to help the Richmond community better understand our uncomfortable past, grapple with our present and create a better future.

X.49.37.43, Women’s Suffrage Rally at Capitol, 1916, The Valentine

During my research, I was focused on being as inclusive as possible when gathering data to ensure a well-rounded portrayal of the various historical narratives. It was particularly important to make sure that I took multiple viewpoints into account and kept an open mind when investigating these topics. It can be easy to label one historical figure a villain and another a hero. I wasn’t interested in something so simple.

So I delved into the readily available resources here at the Valentine, including archival photos, documents and other items in our extensive collection. I was also encouraged to reach out to other historic locations and scholars in the area in order to develop the most expansive, nuanced history of the voting rights debate in Richmond. This allowed me to network and collaborate with various experts and historians, explore the Library of Virginia’s collection and speak with Maymont’s curatorial staff. All of these elements, along with the encouragement of the Valentine, helped me improve my research techniques, discover new resources and become a better public historian.

I’m hopeful that our new “Controversy/History” series will offer insight into the past while also engaging the public with the issues we face today. From voting rights and redistricting on November 7 to monuments, immigration and transportation, the stories we’ll be exploring in the coming months will serve to remind us not only of the progress we have made, but how much work we have yet to do.

Jessica Davis is a Public History graduate student at the University of Richmond. She graduated with her B.A. in History from V.C.U. and has been working as an Educator at the Valentine since 2015. 

 

 

Woman of the Week: Lila Meade Valentine

Women’s equality has been, and continues to be a major issue in today’s world; it is a hot topic of discussion and a relatively predominant subject matter. We all know (and salute) the big names associated with female activism, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Sandra Day O’Connor, Madam C.J. Walker, etc. but what about the women who are not as well known? What about those who worked locally in and around the Richmond area?

Lila Meade Valentine was a native Richmonder who married into the Valentine family when she wed Benjamin Batchelder Valentine in 1886. Although she had no children of her own, she was deeply committed to fighting for the children of Richmond and their right to be educated properly. Unfortunately, during this time Virginia’s education system was prejudiced against the poor, African Americans and females, making it especially difficult for them to receive quality educations. In an attempt to correct these injustices, Lila and several other activists formed the Richmond Education Association (REA), which purpose was to raise money for a new high school, develop programs to train teachers, increase salaries for teachers and in general help children obtain a better education.

On top of education reform, Lila also worked vigorously to restructure healthcare by helping found the Instructive Visiting Nurse Association of Richmond (IVNA). The IVNA’s primary focus was low-income citizens of the area and ensuring they had access to basic health-care services. She later got involved with the American woman suffrage movement and cofounded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Between 1912 and 1913 Lila spoke to more than a hundred government officials and state organizations, eyes set on getting women a voice in politics. The Nineteenth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which granted women the right to legally vote thanks to groups like the Equal Suffrage League and women like Lila.

Lila Meade Valentine passed away on July 14, 1921. We continue to recognize her work and the work of women like her.

 

Rooftop Forever

Rooftop bars are the place to be in the summer; crowds flock to Quirk, Kabana and the Hofheimer building to enjoy cocktails and an open space overlooking the city.  However, images from glass plate negatives in the Cook Collection show that this is not a new phenomenon.  Even in the 1920s Richmonders enjoyed the spacious rooftop garden at the Hotel Richmond. The building, now owned by the state, is the new home of the Virginia Attorney General’s office…bet they wish the garden was still there.

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Interview with Kristen Stewart for “Our Hearts On Our Sleeves”

Our Hearts On Our Sleeves is now open at the Valentine. The exhibition utilizes the Valentine’s extensive costumes and textiles collection to showcase the intersection of art and fashion. Talking more about the exhibition is Kristen Stewart, The Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costume & Textiles who curated the exhibition.

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