The Last Word
Why am I having such a hard time writing this?
Why am I having such a hard time writing this?
Our director of public relations and marketing Domenick Casuccio (who has diligently put this message together each week) is ready and waiting for this last communication.
After 50 weekly updates, we are finally at opening week and I’m finding it difficult knowing exactly what to say.
Remarkably, we have been able to keep (relatively) calm as we hammered on for over a year.
Our public programs staff has continued to serve the region with our education programs in schools. We have served more students in our outreach efforts that we did the previous year on-site.
Despite the chaos on the gallery floors below, our curatorial staff provided research access and care for the 1.6 million objects that have been entrusted to us by the community.
Even as the construction fences enveloped the block, our volunteers and visitor services staff never stopped giving tours of the 1812 John Wickham House and the Edward V. Valentine Scupture Studio. In fact, major new acquisitions were added to the house and a refreshed interpretative approach was introduced to provide information on the history of the museum and the Valentine family. Weddings, special events and lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen all continued in the garden.
With the support of The Future of Richmond’s Past and TMI Consulting, our Community Conversations took us off Clay Street to explore the power of places across the city. From Shockoe Bottom to the Boulevard, we discussed the changing meanings of the city’s landscapes.
Bon Secours Richmond Health System and the Hollywood Cemetery Foundation kept us healthy by supporting our Richmond History Tours program. We offered almost 400 public walking tours that took people into undiscovered areas of the region, each with its unique histories. (And that number doesn’t include the tours offered to schools and our step-on guide services.)
And all this, while the renovation created a new museum store and lobby, education center, exhibition galleries, and multi-purpose room. All of our spaces, including some fabulous new restrooms, are more welcoming to our visitors. These incredible spaces will continue to serve future generations of the Richmond community.
We also planned a very exciting opening year. We will, through our programs and exhibitions in these new spaces, redefine and re-imagine the future of this very special place.
We open this week with “This is Richmond, Virginia.” The exhibition is built around the big questions (like “What do we value?”) that have echoed through Richmond’s history. These questions are answered by objects from our diverse collections.
In January, we open our “Made in Church Hill” exhibition and begin this year’s Community Conversations. Both, generously funded by the Robins Foundation, will focus on communities that have experienced transitions over the past few years. The exhibition is a partnership with VCU, the University of Richmond, and Church Hill Activity Team (CHAT) who are collecting the stories of change in Church Hill.
Through our collaboration with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), this year’s series of conversations will include tours and other programming in selected Richmond neighborhoods to build our understanding of the changing demographics of the region.
There will be a unique photographic nod to the end of the American Civil War in March through a collaboration with the RVA Beard League and Terry Brown Photography.
Our first year of programming will close with the long awaited opening of our costume and textile galleries and the exhibition “Classical Allure” curated by our new Natalie L. Klaus Curator Kristen Stewart. What a great way to end the first cycle of exhibitions and programs in our new place!
As we progressed through the year, and considered all of the new ideas for programs and exhibitions, we came to an important realization. Just like the city we love, this institution is hard to define.
With the support of our Board of Trustees and great research, we knew that we had to reaffirm what we always knew.
We are not just a gallery or a history museum, an historic house, a beautiful green space in downtown, or a walk through a Richmond neighborhood.
We are…plain and simple…The Valentine.
Hard to define but impossible not to love. We are the keeper of Richmond stories.
Okay…I’ve gone on way too long, but, as you can see, it has been an incredible year because of our incredible staff, volunteers, trustees and supporters. Many thanks to all of you!
It is now finally time to Keep Calm and Party On.
Bill Martin, Director
P.S. Join today and be part of the grand opening week celebrations (Oct 20-24). A donation of $250+ secures your spot at the special Wednesday night Grand Reopening Celebration.