The Art of the Handwritten Note

The Valentine’s Museum Store Manager shares her thoughts on the living art of the handwritten note

New Biba Letterpress Stationery (complete with quills) in the 1812 Wickham House.

With the hustle and bustle of life in 2019, one might begin to think that handwritten letters are a thing of the past – a “dying art.”  However, the art of the handwritten note is what brings the form alive today more than the long, conversational letters of times past.

Today, a handwritten note can be short and sweet. After all, it’s the unspoken messages that really count. That’s where this new project comes in!

Get inspired to write friends and family a handwritten note on the exclusive letterpress stationery inspired by the re-created wallpaper in the McClurg Bedchamber of the historic 1812 Wickham House. locally crafted by Biba Letterpress, the beautiful details from the “Wickham Stripe” wallpaper come alive on gorgeous, weighted paper that is both a pleasure to write on and to share.

So what makes the handwritten note an art anyway?

Like the best art, the handwritten note comes from the heart. Handwritten messages carry more weight (both literally and figuratively) and are often convey more sincerity. Think about all of the Facebook birthday wishes you receive versus that special handwritten card you receive from your grandmother. They don’t begin to compare, do they?

The handwritten note is more open. It allows the reader to think and ponder and feel, much how art requests that the viewer think and ponder and feel. It is also courteous; a handwritten note does not demand an instant reply for fear of getting lost in an onslaught of emails.

Packaged Biba Letterpress Stationery, based on the re-created wallpaper in the McClurg Bedchamber.

The handwritten note is more expressive. You reveal yourself in your handwriting, the words you choose, the pen you choose, the paper you choose and even the stamp you choose to send it. Art is about what the artist has chosen to express, so why not let your own personality and sincerity shine?

The handwritten note stands out. It is both classic and rebellious at the same time. Ink on paper is still considered the most formal way to express our thoughts, and yet taking the time to write a letter is a distinct act of defiance against day-to-day emailing, texting and other technology-based forms of communication.

Become a handwritten note artist today! The Valentine Museum Store has all the stationery and fountain pens (pictured below) you will need to inspire and drive your creative communication.

Brianna Landes is the Museum Store Manager at the Valentine in Richmond.

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Rebekah Hale

The Valentine’s new PR & Marketing intern talks historic preservation and her passion for encouraging meaningful dialogue

Randolph-Macon student and PR & Marketing intern Rebekah Hale

My name is Rebekah Hale, and I am a rising senior at Randolph-Macon College. I am so excited to be working as the Public Relations and Marketing intern at the Valentine this summer.

As a classical studies and archaeology major, I have had the opportunity to meaningfully explore our complex history, which has instilled within me a deep-seated appreciation for the study and preservation of cultural heritage. Throughout my academic exploration, I have had to confront and grapple with the many competing interests and ethical dilemmas facing those in the field of cultural heritage preservation. After reflecting on these issues and their impact on our study, preservation and interpretation of the past, I have come to find that engaging with these issues, while difficult, is of paramount importance to ensuring continual progress in the field. Ultimately, the future of cultural heritage preservation lies in our ability to articulate its value through dialogue with our community, which will inspire the public to assist in transmitting our cultural heritage to future generations.

Having grown up in the Richmond area, I have always been interested in the historical and cultural treasures which Richmond has to offer. In addition to my deep appreciation for our history, I also have a passion for communicating the importance of our cultural materials, which allow us to connect with our past in a meaningful way. After graduation, I intend to pursue a career in legal advocacy work in the field of cultural heritage, so I am thrilled to spend my summer at the Valentine, where I will be able to gain a nuanced understanding of the inner-workings of the museum. In addition to acquiring a holistic overview of the various departments of the museum, I am looking forward to assisting the Valentine in the goal of engendering a meaningful dialogue about Richmond’s past. The Valentine remains a cultural institution which understands the importance of engaging with multifaceted issues and igniting community-wide conversations about the complex history of Richmond, and it is my hope that I will be able to encourage public conversations about Richmond’s cultural and historic legacy so that our history can continue to be explored, grappled with and preserved for years to come.

In my role as the Public Relations and Marketing intern at the Valentine, I am most eager to communicate the significance of Richmond’s history through dialogue with the general public. Richmond has such an immense and complex history, and I am excited to take part in connecting with the people of Richmond through the preservation of our cultural remains and valuable conversations about our past. I look forward to spending the summer fostering meaningful and timely conversations in the Richmond community which will serve to cultivate greater appreciation and understanding of Richmond’s unique history and culture.

Rebekah Hale is the current PR & Marketing intern at the Valentine in Richmond.

Black History Month Gallery Guide

As a part of the Valentine’s commitment to share diverse, important and powerful Richmond Stories, we have developed a Black History Month Gallery Guide for our visitors.

These laminated guides are located at our front desk (and available for download HERE), and direct museum attendees to objects and stories located in our main exhibition This is Richmond, Virginia that help to tell just a part of the story of African-Americans in Richmond. While this guide is by no means comprehensive, we hope it will serve as a jumping off point for visitors looking to explore the wider history of the region and the integral role African-Americans have played in its development, evolution and progress.



Richmond Made: A Museum Store Q&A Series

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

Richmond jewelry artist Icka Cantilo uses a surgeon’s precision to make hand-cut jewelry out of silver, gold and nickel free copper that is sourced from foundries specializing in recycled precious metals. Often inspired by medical illustrations, Cantilo’s designs fit perfectly with the Valentine’s Pandemic: Richmond exhibition. She sat down with our Museum Store Manager Brianna Landes to talk about her work.

Q: What is your most popular piece of jewelry? What is the story behind it? 

A: My most popular Piece of jewelry is my” Lungs” necklace, hand cut out of Nickle free copper with free hand hammered texture and Patina finish. I created this design while still a student at VCU School of the Arts and I’ve continued to make the Lung Necklace for the past 9 years. Its popularity can be from some unfortunate reasons and stories/experiences I’ve gathered from customers, but also for more positive reasons such as Respiratory therapists and students and teachers of MCV School of Medicine.  Creating this design, for me, was a study and an interest in medical drawings and how I can create a story to wear. It was one of my very first statement necklaces and now the technique of illustrating by means hand cutting metals has become my signature style.

Q: Do you make pieces by request or have a template that you typically go by for designing a piece? 

A: I selectively take custom orders. The request has to resonate with me and the design fall within my own interests. I research and source inspiration from technical drawings, medical drawings, tattoo illustrations, museum exhibits and many other creative resources. Once I draw out my design I have to ensure its lines are appropriately measured for the gauge of metal it will be cut from. From that I create a master drawing that essentially maps out where I drill and cut.

Q: How long does it typically take to make one piece? 

A: It all depends on the number of cuts and how detailed the line work of my design is. For instance I have a cat skull necklace which only has three areas of negative space to be cut out, whereas, my insect wing designs are the same size and take me 10 times longer because of the intricacy of the design.

Come see Icka Cantilo’s jewelry at The Valentine! The exclusive Apothecary Bottle necklace and earrings were inspired by the Pandemic: Richmond exhibit on view now.


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.