Let’s Talk Dirt.

This week contractors dug trenches for new plumbing in the lower level of the History Center.

Since 1902 the Valentine has been providing educational experiences for Richmond students. For most of these 100 years, kids have been building small clay pots as a part of our Powhatan Indians school program. Believe it or not, one of our larger budget items has always been for our large annual supply of red clay. Over the years I am certain that tons of clay has been used to support this program.

Well….we can now slash our education budget (not really).

In putting in the new water lines to support the new Sara D. November Education Center and our new restrooms, we found beautiful red clay and lots of it. Trenches are being carefully hand dug through the floors in preparation for the water pipes and drains.

As the initial demolition phase comes to a close, we are beginning to see hints of the new spaces that will support and sustain our long engagement with the public schools. We should not be surprised that our programs and our buildings are both built on foundations of the red clay soils of the South…the soils that have always supported all of us.

Are you curious about the progress of our renovation? Please 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

A student and her clay pot
A student proudly shows off her clay pot. 

A man standing by a pit. Plumbing
Trenches are being dug and new plumbing is being installed in the Sara D. November Education Center and for the new restrooms. (Photo by Burl Rollet, Richmond BizSense).  

-Bill Martin, Director

Jackhammers Galore!

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

 

We are more than a group of historic buildings on Clay Street.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find us on every corner of our city?

The Silver Belles exhibition at the Wilton House Museum features evening gowns from the History Center’s Costume & Textile Collection.  The exhibit is on display through January 26.

We are more than a group of historic buildings on Clay Street.

I was reminded of our presence throughout the city during the holidays as I found hints of the Valentine everywhere.

  • It was in the crowds that paraded along Monument Avenue in our two sold-out Holiday Glitter: Monument Avenue After Dark walking tours.
  • It was in the thousands of students that participated in our school programs in December.
  • It was in photographs from our collection posted along Grace Street celebrating the new energy of this important downtown street.
  • It was even larger historic trolley images filling the walls of the old GRTC barns along Cary Street in the Fan.
  • It was in our neon sign photo exhibition surrounding me at a meeting at the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and in our social outreach photo exhibition at Richmond City’s new Center for Workforce Innovation.
  • I even found dresses from our costume and textile collection featured in the holiday exhibition Silver Belles at the Wilton House Museum.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find us on every corner of our city?

Are you curious about the progress of our renovation? Please 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.

UR Panel

Images of trolley cars can been seen along the Cary Street wall outside of the GRTC Bus Depot.

CFWI Label CFWI Gallery

Images from the History Center’s collection are featured in Richmond Comes Together: Then and Now at the City’s new Center for Workforce Innovation.

-Bill Martin, Director

Our Collection is Safe & Sound

While our galleries and public spaces are a storm of construction activity, our collections storage, archives, and curatorial offices on the second and third floors remain relatively quiet. (There is an occasional odd noise from jackhammers or the removal of ceilings!)

These neon signs were formerly on exhibit on the ground floor of the History Center and are now being stored on our fourth floor.


While our galleries and public spaces are a storm of construction activity, our collections storage, archives, and curatorial offices on the second and third floors remain relatively quiet. (There is an occasional odd noise from jackhammers or the removal of ceilings!)

Our remarkable curatorial team headed by Meg Hughes has managed to move, find alternative storage locations, and care for our 1.6 million objects without additional staff and the need for additional off-site storage. The ability to keep the collections at Clay Street was essential to prevent potential damage and to ensure intellectual and physical control of these historic materials. All of this has been accomplished while continuing to providing access to the collections for researchers, continuing our collections management initiative, and planning exhibitions for our new spaces.

Our collections’ staff and volunteers have given an incredible gift to the Valentine and to our community with their efforts to secure the treasures of our collections during the renovations. It is without any doubt the best thing under our tree this year!

Are you curious about the progress of our renovation? Please 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.

Please have a safe and happy holiday and I’ll touch base with you in the new year!

Bethany in CT

Museum Technician Bethany Gingrich labels some new accessions to our Costume & Textile Collection.

David General

David Voelkel, Curator of General Collections, adjusts an object in storage.

 

-Bill Martin, Director

The New View of the Wickham House

In 1902, the Valentine Museum’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to provide free educational programming to the schools of the Richmond region. Central to the work of the History Center, these programs have changed to meet the evolving needs of our teachers. Over the last few years we have expanded these services to provide SOL-based programming in the classroom in addition to the traditional visit to the History Center’s campus. During our renovations, we are building on this outreach.

 

In 1902, the Valentine Museum’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to provide free educational programming to the schools of the Richmond region. Central to the work of the History Center, these programs have changed to meet the evolving needs of our teachers. Over the last few years we have expanded these services to provide SOL-based programming in the classroom in addition to the traditional visit to the History Center’s campus. During our renovations, we are building on this outreach.

While there may not be any field trips to the History Center this school year, it looks like we will actually provide more programs to more students than we ever have before. Over 30% more students will be reached in December than we served on-site and with outreach last December. While excited about returning to the new Sara D. November Education Center in the fall, our amazing education team is making sure we continue our commitment to engagement with the public schools.

The changes in the old activity center certainly reflect changing technology! For instance, the old darkroom for photograph processing (who even knows what a negative is?) will soon become support space for the November Education Center. We are all excited to see what the next generation of educators will do to connect future Richmonders to their past in this new space.

Curious about the renovation? Please join us for a Hard Hat Happy Hour and see Clay Street like no one has ever seen it on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. You can RSVP online to schedule a time to stop 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.

Education Renovations

Renovation progress of the Activity Center and Darkroom

Education Rendering

Rendering of the Sara D. November Education Center

 

-Bill Martin, Director

Walls Do Talk

Walls do talk…sometimes in very literal ways! As the demolition continues, we are pulling back layers of previous renovations to reveal stories about the people and activities that have inhabited these spaces. From a wall covered in the 1970’s we found “graffiti-like” stenciled images of football players beside a pencil drawing of a very “hip” bearded male (he would be in style today). It also appears that they used to wall to calculate costs for the project!

Walls do talk…sometimes in very literal ways! As the demolition continues, we are pulling back layers of previous renovations to reveal stories about the people and activities that have inhabited these spaces. From a wall covered in the 1970’s we found “graffiti-like” stenciled images of football players beside a pencil drawing of a very “hip” bearded male (he would be in style today). It also appears that they used to wall to calculate costs for the project!

Firmly pasted to another wall was an old typed list of paintings that must have been exhibited in one of the galleries. (The numbers for the locations of the works are still scattered around the room.) While very hard to date, this list provides interesting insight into our important collections and our past exhibitions. From Conrad Wise Chapman to Sara November, the exhibition list shows a distinctive commitment to a broad range of subject matter and artists. 

I am sure that as the work continues there will be more interesting stories discovered. (No…we have not found any cash or gold, so gifts to the campaign would be greatly appreciated.)

What hints of this renovation will we leave? As part of our Richmond History Makers celebration this year, we asked our celebrants to leave their own messages to the future. I wonder what people will think about us when these walls are revealed during our next renovation in the future?

By the way, if you want to get out of your house on the December 25th, there will be a Hard Hat Happy Hour at 4:30! You can RSVP to me for more information and let me know you’ll be coming by.With family and friends together for the holiday, it might be interesting to hide a story in your own house for future occupants.

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.

Please have a safe and happy holiday and I’ll touch base with you in the new year!

Exhibition List Football Players

Bearded Man

Bill Martin, Director

A New Education Center

In 1902, the Valentine Museum’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to provide free educational programming to the schools of the Richmond region. Central to the work of the History Center, these programs have changed to meet the evolving needs of our teachers. Over the last few years we have expanded these services to provide SOL-based programming in the classroom in addition to the traditional visit to the History Center’s campus. During our renovations, we are building on this outreach.

 

In 1902, the Valentine Museum’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to provide free educational programming to the schools of the Richmond region. Central to the work of the History Center, these programs have changed to meet the evolving needs of our teachers. Over the last few years we have expanded these services to provide SOL-based programming in the classroom in addition to the traditional visit to the History Center’s campus. During our renovations, we are building on this outreach.

While there may not be any field trips to the History Center this school year, it looks like we will actually provide more programs to more students than we ever have before. Over 30% more students will be reached in December than we served on-site and with outreach last December. While excited about returning to the new Sara D. November Education Center in the fall, our amazing education team is making sure we continue our commitment to engagement with the public schools.

The changes in the old activity center certainly reflect changing technology! For instance, the old darkroom for photograph processing (who even knows what a negative is?) will soon become support space for the November Education Center. We are all excited to see what the next generation of educators will do to connect future Richmonders to their past in this new space.

Curious about the renovation? Please join us for a Hard Hat Happy Hour and see Clay Street like no one has ever seen it on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. You can RSVP online to schedule a time to stop 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.

Education Renovations

Renovation progress of the Activity Center and Darkroom

Education Rendering

Rendering of the Sara D. November Education Center

 

-Bill Martin, Director

Can you tell me where the restrooms are?

This has to be the most asked question at our reception desk. As of today, I have no idea. All of the old walls, sinks, and toilets have been removed. One of the targets of the renovation is the total replacement of our existing restrooms. This is certainly one feature of the old building that no one will miss. These dingy (and a little smelly) and inaccessible restrooms will be replaced with ones that are larger and fully accessible. There will even be a special restroom in our education center that on the weekends can double as a changing area for our wedding rentals.

In everything that we do, we are hoping to create the best possible experience for our visitors. With all of the walls and ceilings out on the lower level, we are beginning to see how much more useable and open our new exhibition and education spaces will be.  

Now I bet you are wondering what the second most asked question at the reception desk is? “Is this the Museum of the Confederacy?”   Thanks to our friends at VCU new directional signage is on the way and visitors will soon be able to come directly from Broad Street on 10th to our parking lot avoiding the one-way streets and traffic. Exciting!Please join us for a Hard Hat Happy Hour and see Clay Street like no one has ever seen it on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. You can RSVP online to schedule a time to stop 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

Clay Street Unveiled

For almost 50 years guests entered the Valentine through a set of double doors in the middle of our Clay Street block.  During renovations in the 1970’s the main entrance was moved from the row houses to the Branford Cecil House where it remains today.  For the first time in over 25 years the beautiful doors of this earlier entrance were revealed this week.  We now have a hint of the dramatic changes that our visitors will find in our new galleries.

With the original windows and doors reopened, a direct visual link between the street and the activities in the Stettinius Community Galleries is created.  This is more than a physical change to our building.  It is a reflection of our vision of providing an open and inviting place to discover the history of our region.  Our renovations are more than beautiful new spaces and exhibitions, it is our vision of the Valentine’s role in Richmond’s future.

Please join us for a Hard Hat Happy Hour and see Clay Street like no one has ever seen it on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. You can RSVP online to schedule a time to stop 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

Let us out!

Construction fencing is now in place and our directional banners and signs are going up. Thanks to the folks at Kjellstrom and Lee all of the staging for the renovations will be organized along the Clay Street sidewalk.

 

Construction fencing is now in place and our directional banners and signs are going up. Thanks to the folks at Kjellstrom and Lee all of the staging for the renovations will be organized along the Clay Street sidewalk. This keeps our parking lot open and the Wickham House and Sally Bell’s Kitchen accessible. The demolition of walls will begin downstairs next week. All of the glass from the exhibition cases has been removed and all of the exterior windows are now fully visible.Staff and volunteers are settling into new routines. We are beginning to realize that each day will require our patience and flexibility to adjust to changes in the building. (I have been told that these changes are much easier to deal with than a certain director’s mood changes.)

Thanks to great planning, our staff have been able to stay in their offices during the renovation and our collection of over 1.6 million objects remains on site. Wickham House visitors seem to be enjoying the revised tour and the new exhibitions on the second floor. Not a bad start…but looking forward to some real noise next week!

Don’t forget you can join us for a Hard Hat Happy Hour on Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. Join us for a cocktail and a tour of our progress. You can RSVP online to schedule a time to stop by.

Creating History Tour

 Clay Street Fence

 Sidewalk Closed

 

-Bill Martin, Director