Spring Fever!

There’s nothing better than a spring day in Richmond!

The Valentine Garden and a boxed lunch from Sally Bell’s Kitchen.

Amidst the clamor of the renovation, the Valentine Garden located in the courtyard of the 1812 John Wickham House remains a refuge for visitors to our neighborhood and for the patients and medical staff at VCU Medical Center.

We often talk about our historic buildings and significant collections, but I think we forget that one of the Valentine’s most important assets is this amazing green space in the heart of Court End.

When we think about what are the key elements of the Richmond experience, it is not only about our history and architecture, but it is also the remarkable landscapes of our gardens, parks, and cemeteries.  They are as important to maintain and preserve as our great buildings.

I cannot think of a more quintessential Richmond experience than our garden…a Sally Bell’s chocolate cupcake, the smell of boxwoods, the shade of a giant magnolia, the view of the Wickham House portico and even the sound of an ambulance siren.

The Valentine Garden is one of Richmond’s most important urban spaces.

Our challenge is to create unique experiences throughout our new facilities that help us pause and reflect on the power of this place that we call home.

There’s nothing better than a spring day in Richmond!

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00pm. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at  /give.

Bill Martin, Director

 

Start Your Engines!

Help us fund raise to add new objects to the collection!

Rendering of “This is Richmond, Virginia” exhibition – Opening Fall 2014!

A crock, a fender and a washing machine walk into a museum…does it sound like the beginning of a really bad curator joke?

The new “This is Richmond, Virginia” exhibition will draw significantly from the exisiting collections of the Valentine. Key objects from our painting, decorative arts, costume & textile, and archival collections will be featured…many of which will be exhibited for the first time!

In this eclectic mix will be objects that have been collected specifically for this exhibition. From an early-20th century washing machine made at Richmond Cedar Works (now the site of Rockett’s Landing) to a mid-19th century crock made by an early Hugenot immigrant to the region, our curators have been working with donors and the collections committe to help bring exciting new objects to the exhibtion that will help us tell new stories.

Expect to see lots of surprises and odd combinations when the exhibit opens in October!

You Can Help!

We can’t tell the story of the Richmond International Raceway and NASCAR without a great object.

As an experiment in new fundraising approaches, you can help us purchase a car fender through a crowdfunding website (I’m not really sure what this means, but it makes us sound cool).

The fender from famous car #2 was dented during an RIR race and is signed by its driver and Winston Cup Champion Randy Wallace.

Just follow this link to the Kickstarter campaign to learn more about the object and help us raise money to add it to the collection.

Bill Martin, Director

We are VERY Richmond

Why we are using local contractors, architects, and designers for our renovations.

We want to be VERY Richmond!

The continuing renovation has provided a unique opportunity for the Valentine to express our belief in the talent and creativity of our own region. There is much conversation these days about locally sourced and handcrafted food. (There are a lot of great new restaurants!) Our goal is to create a space downtown that reflects the history of local enterprise and innovation in everything we do.

We are your homegrown museum! 

Richmonders have funded this project and we are now reinvesting your support in our community. What better way to do this than to create a team of local contractors, architects, designers, and artists to work with us on this project. Our architects are Glavé & Holmes, our general contractors are Kjellstrom + Lee, and our exhibition designers are Riggs Ward.

These are all companies based in Richmond and known for their high quality work and commitment to the community.  We are fortunate to have such great resources right here in our community.

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00pm. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at /give 

Bill Martin, Director

Who Are You Wearing?

From the 18th century to yesterday, we can tell the history of the region through the clothing we have worn and the other textiles that are a part of our daily lives.

Who Are You Wearing?

It’s a difficult (and easy) question for the Valentine. We have an answer as long as Richmond’s history.   From the 18th century to yesterday, we can tell the history of the region through the clothing we have worn and the other textiles that are a part of our daily lives.

It’s quilts. It’s couture. It’s Robert E. Lee’s boots!

At long last, with the opening of the Klaus and Reynolds Costume and Textile Galleries in May of next year, we are creating a new runway for the history of Richmond fashion.

The Valentine’s costume and textile collection is recognized as one of the largest and most significant in the United States.

The new galleries will allow us to spotlight (probably a bad word because of the damage to textiles from too much light exposure) one of the Valentine’s signature collections.

In addition to the building projects associated with our campaign, we are also building our endowment. I am pleased to announce that we will begin recruitment for the new Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costumes and Textiles this week. This new curator’s first task will be to create the inaugural exhibition in our new galleries.

I have included a few renderings of these galleries that are located on the lower level.

With our renovations, we will finally be able to answer the question…who have Richmonders been wearing?

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur everyWednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m.You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at  /give.

-Bill Martin, Director

 

Working in a Renovation Zone

The structural work of the renovations is nearing completion.

New steel I-beams have replaced the temporary supports in the Stettinius Community Galleries.

 

Imagine sitting at your desk and feeling the vibration of jackhammers below. Significant demolition of walls in our basement and main levels has been occurring just a few feet below curatorial areas. Given the magnitude of this work, we have experienced very little disruption in the regular work of our staff and few signs of the physical changes being made being made below (other than the occasional sound of a jackhammer).

I am pleased to report that the structural work is nearing completion.  Steel I-beams now support places where walls used to be.  The openness of the costume and textile galleries and community galleries is now fully evident.

While the walls may need steel for support, equally important is the support of our amazing curatorial team at the Valentine.

Dusting Staircase

Janet Lundy, Museum Technician, dusts the Wickham House staircase.

 

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at  /give.

-Bill Martin, Director

 

Power to the People

The renovations include complete replacement of the electrical system.

 

In addition to the replacement of our heating and air conditioning, the renovations include the complete replacement of the electrical system.

In all of the work that we are doing, the biggest challenge is trying to create spaces that will not only support our current plans but will also provide flexibility for future generations of curators and educators.

We hope that the new wires being pulled throughout the building will provide the necessary energy for the future. We cannot anticipate all of the future technology changes that we will need to make to remain relevant.

Who would have imagined 30 (or even 10) years ago the role that the internet plays in our lives today?

The one thing that we do know is the real source of our power.  No matter what technology, what energy source…the real source of our power is the stories of the city contained in the 1.6 million objects that we hold for Richmond’s next generation.

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at  /give.

-Bill Martin, Director

 

Our Volunteers Are Amazing!

The contractors told us there would be surprises–and they were right!

Rendering of the Multi-Purpose Room.

 

The contractors told us that there would be surprises and they were right.

Last week as the contractors were removing the existing wiring in what you might remember as the Neon Gallery, they soon realized that there was more going on under the floor than we had expected. We discovered that under the floor boards was a network of electrical outlets that at some time in the past had been covered by another layer of floor boards. It is not a good thing to cover an outlet as it presents a fire hazard.

As a result of this discovery, we have opted to remove the majority of the existing floor boards on the ground level. While this was not in the plans, the flooring in our new event space will now flow smoothly to the adjourning spaces (and not electrocute our guests) and will also allow us to address moisture problems that were also discovered.

This new multi-purpose space will allow us to host seated dinners for 75 and 150 standing for receptions and various other gatherings.

The ground level will also feature an area for brides to prepare themselves before their ceremony. Next to the multi-purpose area will also be the Klaus and Reynolds Costume and Textile Galleries.

For our continued growth and long-term sustainability, we will need to significantly increase our earned income. The special events and facility rentals that will be hosted in this newly renovated space are all key elements of this plan.

I just wonder what the next discovery (or change in plans) will bring.

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hoursthat occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at /give.
Neon Room
The former Neon Gallery after all of the floor and wiring was removed.

 

Electrical outlets
The electrical outlets that were removed from the layers of flooring in the former Neon Gallery.

 

 

–Bill Martin, Director

 

We Stink!

A recent review of the History Center on a travel website said that we smell like a musty old museum. Sorry to say it, but I agree!

A recent review of the History Center on a travel website said that we smell like a musty old museum. Sorry to say it, but I agree!

Providing improved heating, air conditioning and ventilation is an important part of our renovation.  All of our systems have been in place since the expansion in the 1970s and are now being totally replaced to provide an improved environment for our collections and increased comfort for our visitors.

When we replaced our roofs several years ago, we upgraded many of our mechanical systems. (These improvements were a part of the previous phase of our campaign.) We are now connecting these systems to new ductwork and air handling units in all of our public spaces. Fitting all of the larger systems into the building is certainly a challenge for our architects, engineers, and contractors. We can see their creativity in this task as the first major ducts are being installed.

Environmental standards have changed since the 1970s. For the first time, we will be providing both temperature and humidity control in our galleries to assure the long term preservation of objects from our collections.  If you have ever been to an event in our education and public program spaces, you know how uncomfortable they can become.  With our improved and increased air flow, this should not be a problem in the future.

Fresh airnatural light, and innovative programs and exhibitions…and never musty!

Are you curious about our progress? Join us for one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. You can contact me for more information or RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at /give.

– Bill Martin, Director

 

A Surprise Under the Floorboards

While the weather outside was frightful, the work inside was frightening. There has been the noise of jackhammers everywhere!

While the weather outside was frightful, the work inside was frightening. I really thought that most of the demolition inside the building had been completed. Well…I was wrong! 

There has been the noise of jackhammers everywhere! 

This was the week that large load bearing walls were removed to prepare for the new steel beams waiting to be installed. Suddenly we have even larger open spaces for the Stettinius Community Galleries and the Klaus and Reynolds Costume and Textile Galleries.

I really did not understand fully the magnitude of some of these changes until I saw it for myself this week.

Until the beams are in we have a new art installation (actually it is a complex web of temporary framing – see below) that supports all four floors. While the framing is really beautiful, I know that our staff on the floors above would rather be focused on planning for the new galleries than the constant noise below. With the work on the basement floor, we are now able to look through the entire building from the Wickham House to the education center in the Bransford Cecil House. 


Temporary framing in the Stettinius Community Garden.

Wickham house view
The view from the Wickham House into the Sara D. November Education Center

But the renovation fun did not end there, the City also began their major replacement of water and sewer lines on both Clay and 10th Streets. The streets around us have been filled with the sounds of jackhammers pulling up paving along with the movement of trucks and backhoes. VCU continues work on its new building (with lots of new parking) on Broad and 10th. 10th Street will soon be made 2-way providing much easier access to Broad Street.This is work that will change the way we think about our Court End neighborhood.
Clay St Construction
Water and sewer replacement on Clay Street.

OK…I’ll admit it…it’s a mess around here. And that is even more reason for you to come to one of our Hard Hat Happy Hours that occur every Wednesday from 4:30-6:00 p.m. You can contact me for more information or  RSVP online and let me know you’ll be coming by.

These are exciting times in Richmond and I know that you join us as we watch the transformation of the Valentine and downtown.

If you would like to help keep us calm and hammering on, you can support the History Center on our secure donation page at  /give.

-Bill Martin, Director

 

Keep Calm and Keep Changing

A break in the renovation reports for a little self-reflection.

 
Grey Day
J. Haden Hankins, Photographer
c. 1933
Richmond, Virginia
V.94.09.08 

I hope you don’t mind a little break in the renovation reports while I indulge in a little maudlin self-reflection. 2014 is a landmark year in my life. It is a year that marks my 20th year at the Valentine, the 10th anniversary of my successful cancer treatment, my 60th birthday this week, and (hopefully) the completion of this endless renovation. I cannot imagine a more privileged life.

Every day over the last 20 years as I have learned more about our City’s history and the traditions of the Valentine, I have been reminded of the essential connections that we must make to our past and its link to a better future. What a remarkable place the Valentine is! Its historic commitment to inclusion and educational opportunity sets it apart from others. From early engagement with all children in Richmond Public Schools (1902) to exhibitions and programs (RVA50 and Tattoos) that challenge us to look atourselves and our community differently, this special place on Clay Street has made the quality of life better for all of us. There have certainly been a few bumps along the way (Riverside), but at the core has always been a group of faithful supporters, diligent trustees and creative staff working to guarantee our future. Through building our endowment and our commitment to downtown and the rejuvenation of our remarkable historic properties on Clay Street, we are guaranteeing that the Valentine will be able to remain relevant and engaging to future generations of Richmonders.

Since my cancer diagnosis and treatment 10 years ago, I now know that every day is a gift and that I must use each day to challenge myself to find ways to contribute to positive change in our community. Those closest to me know that this has resulted in a growing lack of patience and the need to get the things done that we know will make life better. (Those around me know too much about this impatience.) The cancer experience also gave me a clearer understanding of the values that would inform the rest of my life. We know that broader access to the cultural, natural, and historic assets of the region can change lives. We also know that there is much about Richmond’s past that we do not know and that we cannot advance as a region until we uncover and acknowledge those untold stories. It is in the discomfort of these stories that feel I my own growth. Nothing like chemo to clear your perspective.

And then there is this 60 thing. Whoever thinks that they are going to be 60? I am not sure how this happened, but I do know that it would not have happened without my great parents (mom is almost 90), remarkable friends, forgiving staff and supportive trustees. (No…I really mean it.) I could never have imagined this introverted poor kid from Culpeper County sitting in my seat. I could never have imagined the remarkable people that are part of my life. I could have never imagined all of the ridiculous changes that happen to us as we grow older.

So I am now officially old and there is work to do. We need to finish our efforts to create a Valentine that continues to challenge us. We need to work to assure the stories we tell provide a full story of our region. We need to bring new leaders to the table. And I need to be more patient and acknowledge the people that support and surround me.

Keep Calm and Keep Changing
 
…will you pass me that glass of red wine?

– Bill Martin, Director