Valentine Intern Spotlight: Emily

Emily, the Valentine’s Archives Intern, delves into her research on Mary Wingfield Scott and the importance of historic preservation

Wellesley College rising Junior and Archives Intern Emily

Hi everyone! My name is Emily and I’m the Archives intern at the Valentine this summer! I’m a rising Junior at Wellesley College, double majoring in history and classics with a focus on food history. I grew up in Richmond and work in Wellesley’s Archives during the school year, so I was beyond excited at the opportunity to work at the Valentine this summer. As a history student with some academic aspirations, archival materials are often the backbone of my research. Working to help make collections more easily accessible to students, scholars and the public has given me a lot of valuable insight on the importance of archival work in preserving and telling stories from our past.

I’ve spent my summer working on cataloguing the research notes of Mary Wingfield Scott. Mary Wingfield Scott was the author of “Houses of Old Richmond,” (1941) and “Old Richmond Neighborhoods,” (1950) and was a leader in Richmond’s historic preservation movement. As I’ve been working through her extensive collection (33 boxes and almost 3,000 folders!), I’ve gotten to see the scope and depth of her work. For almost every address in the collection, she included a photograph of the house as well as information on property owners, insurance policies, and mentions of the property in old newspapers. Many houses she catalogued and photographed have since been demolished, so many of these properties live on only in her publications and in this collection. Even as the city moves forward, Mary Wingfield Scott’s papers reminds us of the importance of our material past.

While most of her notes revolve around Richmond’s historic homes, I’m currently working on the last section of her collection about early French immigrants to Richmond. Each folder contains basic, somewhat sparse information about some of Richmond’s earliest immigrants, but the sheer number of people she wrote about is astounding. The stories of many of the men and women she wrote about have otherwise been lost to history, and it’s often difficult to find any additional outside information on them. While reading through and cataloguing her papers, I am reminded of the meaning and privilege of archival and historic preservation work. Richmond was built by thousands of men and women whose names and stories have been lost in public memory but who live on in archival collections that help tell the story of our past. Ordinary individuals made history and changed history, and it’s up to us to help uncover and tell the stories we’ve lost to time. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities the Valentine has given me to help do this work and highlight these stories.

Emily is the Archives Intern at the Valentine in Richmond.

Valentine Intern Spotlight: Erika Holshoe

Our Costume & Textiles Intern Erika fills us in on her love of fashion, curatorial work and being an archival detective.

University of Rhode Island Master’s Student and Costume & Textiles Intern Erika Holshoe

Howdy! I’m Erika and I am beyond thrilled to be interning this summer with the Costume & Textiles Department here at the Valentine.

I’ve always had a love of fashion, but its reputation as frivolous and unacademic made me shy away from pursuing fashion studies. My love of culture and history drove me to study linguistics instead. Fashion was always on the back-burner until I took a general education course my final semester of undergrad that looked at fashion through an anthropological lens. So much can be learned about humanity through the way we dress. The course validated my interests and demonstrated that fashion was worthy of being studied.

I’m currently finishing up my master’s degree at the University of Rhode Island, specializing in dress history. My aim is to become a curator, creating exhibitions that utilize fashion and dress to challenge the way we understand the world. In comparison to high-brow art, fashion is hugely accessible for visitors and is thusly a fabulous platform to connect with visitors and foster conversations. I was drawn to the Valentine because their mission supports challenging traditional ideas and methodologies and encourages conversation about difficult topics. Plus, their costume and textiles collection is out of this world!

V.44.48.06a,b, Second Day Dress, 1896, Wool oyster cloth, lace, silk, velvet, whalebone, Made for Mrs Gordon Wallace by Fannie Criss, Gift of Mrs. Gordon Wallace (née Ellen Clarke)

My mentor Kristen Stewart, the Nathalie L. Klaus Curator of Costume & Textiles, has been so supportive of my ideas and goals and has tailored my internship to help prepare me for a career in costume curation. Story-telling is integral to museum exhibitions; without it, an exhibition would be kind of, well, boring! Research (endless hours of research) creates the foundation for material culture analysis and story-telling. Ms. Stewart has let me dive deep into the archives to research a Richmond based dressmaker from the turn of the 20th century named Fannie Criss.

As a first child born out of enslavement, Criss navigated a tumultuous and changing South and created a name for herself as a dressmaker for the elite of Richmond. She lived in the wealthiest parts of the city and charged around 200 dollars for a dress at a time where an average dress cost 5 dollars. Her success led her to move to New York City, where her business continued to be successful. Her clientele include Maggie L. Walker and Gloria Swanson, and one of her best friends was the famous Madam C.J. Walker!

Like many of women of color, Criss’ story seems to be erased from the books of history. But my research is uncovering just how amazing her life was. It may sound geeky, but it’s a thrill to be a detective in the archives and discover nuggets of lost knowledge. It’s high time that Criss gets the recognition she deserves and I am so honored to contribute to this research.

Erika Holshoe is the Costume & Textiles Intern 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.