The Valentine: Renovation, Restoration and Regeneration

Richmond, Virginia’s Hidden Treasures Tell a New Story

RICHMOND, Va. (September 1, 2014) The Valentine is devoted to collecting and interpreting the material culture of the city in a bold, new way. With its multi-million-dollar renovation, the Valentine has created a people’s space for visitors to engage in public dialog about important urban issues. This is Richmond, Virginia, the museum’s core exhibition, will open Saturday, Oct. 25 in its main history gallery. The Valentine’s Sara D. November Education Center and Stettinius Community Galleries will open in November 2014 and January 2015, chronicling neighborhood-focused stories with hot-button subjects.

Taking It to the Street

Gifts for capital improvements and endowment funds have allowed the Valentine to take on one of its biggest transformative capital projects. With guidance from local architects, Glavé & Holmes and project management by Kjellstrom+Lee, the Valentine has visually connected the neoclassical 1812 John Wickham house, its garden and the Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio to three adjoining 19th-century row houses.  By tearing down walls, the Valentine takes the museum experience to the street. Clay Street pedestrians can now glimpse parts of the Valentine’s exhibitions since the once-shuttered row house windows are open once again. Member previews will be held in advance of the museum’s grand re-opening on Saturday, Oct. 25.

The renovation and opening week of activities are generously supported by corporations, foundations, and individual donors.  Lead sponsors include Dominion Resources, Altria Group, Capital One, MWV, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, WRIC 8 News, Style Weekly, and many others.

This is Richmond, Virginia weaves a new narrative about Virginia’s capital. While the exhibition tells the proud story of Richmond’s connection to America’s founding fathers, it also includes emotionally-charged subjects such as the slave trade, women’s suffrage rights and civil rights.  Since December 2013, the Valentine’s architectural renovation has revealed layers of Richmond history.  When taking down a wall, contractors discovered mid-20th century plans for an exhibition that included, among others, Sara D. November, mother of Richmond philanthropist Neil November, and a widely respected artist and teacher. Director Bill Martin says “it’s more than serendipitous that we discovered this bit of Valentine museum history.” The November family has supported the museum since the early 1900s, and when the Sara D. November Education Center opens on Friday, Nov. 7, her self-portrait will grace its entrance.

This is Richmond, Virginia and the renovated space it occupies was made possible by a gift from Altria Group and the National Endowment for the Humanities. According to Martin, the entire exhibition was designed by Virginia firm Riggs Ward, This is Richmond, Virginia explores five key themes: Why the fall line? Where do we live? What do we produce? Who has a voice? and What do we value? Valentine staff members David Voelkel and Meg Hughes curated the exhibition.

Developed for flexibility, This is Richmond, Virginia will change over time. Pieces from the Valentine’s collection and new acquisitions will be rotated for insight into the life and times of Richmonders from the 1600s to the present-day. Martin anticipates the exhibition will ignite public dialog and future narrative. He has actively engaged public participation during his two decades with the Valentine. Under Martin’s leadership, the Valentine has expanded the choices of Richmond-area walking and bus tours to more than 300 annually. The Valentine offers an array of public educational programs for all ages and has been educating Richmond Public School students about cultural subjects since the early 1900s. What was once referred to as “Richmond’s attic,” Martin and the Valentine Board of Directors now call “Richmond’s Living Room.”  Martin was instrumental in recently developing the Richmond Liberty Trail and the annual Richmond History Makers program.  Richmond History Makers will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Tuesday, Oct. 21 with a public celebration.

Made in Richmond

In addition to the new exhibition, a new museum gift shop will feature Richmond-made specialty items, all uniquely created in Virginia’s capital. More galleries will open next year.  Made in Church Hill, a collaborative exhibition involving a variety of local cultural and educational institutions, is scheduled to open in January in the renovated Stettinius Community Galleries. In May 2015, the Klaus and Reynolds Costume and Textile Galleries will explore Richmond’s classical roots in an exhibition from the internationally known, 40,000-piece Valentine Costume and Textile collection. More exciting community exhibitions are planned for 2016.

For the first time ever, the Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio can now be viewed from a window in the This is Richmond, Virginia exhibition space. Edward V. Valentine created many public sculptures of Southern leaders but his best known work, Recumbent Lee, lies in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee, above Robert E. Lee’s burial vault. In addition to many figurative sculptures, the intimate studio displays an unusually large number of death masks Valentine created and collected. The studio is one of only five surviving 19th-century sculpture studios open to the public in the U.S.

The John Wickham House was built in 1812 for prominent Richmond lawyer John Wickham.  Wickham represented Vice President Aaron Burr in his trial for treason.  The house is located in Richmond’s Court End, once a neighborhood for the city’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens. Wickham’s neighbor was U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who presided over the Burr trial. Today, the Wickham house displays living spaces that would have been used during the family’s time. In August, The Valentine opened an insightful exhibition called Creating History: The Valentine Family and the Creation of a Museum on the second floor of the Wickham house with family portraits, a history of Valentine’s Meat Juice – the product that made Mann S. Valentine II wealthy – and a recreation of the very first exhibition in 1898.

The Valentine Museum was created with a bequest in 1892 from Mann S. Valentine II, who left a sum of money and his collection of scientific artifacts and art objects, as well as the Wickham House for public education and research. His brother, Edward V. Valentine, served as the museum’s first president when it opened to the public in 1898.

About the Valentine Museum, the Richmond Dispatch, Nov. 21, 1898 said:

“Richmond has long been in need of such an institution, and therefore it satisfies a public want.”

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The Valentine preserves, conserves and interprets Richmond, Virginia history and diverse community issues by focusing on urban and social history, costumes, decorative arts and architecture. It is the only institution in the country committed solely to this mission and it is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It houses a 40,000-piece collection of textiles and costumes, one of the largest Western collections of its kind. The Valentine maintains more than one million photographic images of the city, and 25,000 decorative arts pieces, including portraits, furniture and domestic items. Its research library provides primary source material for national and international scholars. The Valentine-owned 1812 John Wickham House is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

For more information, contact:
Domenick Casuccio
Public Relations & Marketing Director
804-649-0711 ext. 322
804-467-2431 (cell)