Curator Conversations

Curator Conversations

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In this series, VMHC curatorial staff bring exclusive member-only programs to you on a variety of interesting topics. We hope you enjoy this archive of recent programs. Click on the video thumbnails below to watch the program recordings. To see upcoming events in this series, please visit our Events Calendar.

Landscapes of Virginia (August 14, 2023): The VMHC recently reinstalled the Landscapes of Virginia exhibition in the Thomas F. Farrell II Gallery. While many of the well-known gems of the museum’s remarkable collection of landscape paintings remain on view, they have been joined by newly hung works showcasing a greater diversity of artists, subject matter, and artistic approaches. In addition, the reinstallation presents new juxtapositions and interpretive information to prompt fresh insights into these paintings.

The Soldier’s Gaze: War Art by Civil War Soldiers (April 24, 2023): When civilians entered military service during the Civil War, they also began a creative struggle to represent and record the conflict. In addition to letters, diaries, and memoirs, soldiers relied upon visual culture as an effective medium with which to convey and grapple with the experiences of war. Soldier-artists produced art within the context of a prevailing public narrative that idealized the experience of war. Some created romantic illustrations to justify their cause, celebrate their martial prowess, and adhere to the expectations of civilian society. Others found patriotic symbolism unsustainable in the face of an increasingly mechanized conflict, abandoning popular strategies in search of new ways to communicate war’s violence. Nearly all offered a sympathetic view of the ordinary soldier at war. Join Melanie Trent De Schutter Library Director James Brookes as we recover the dynamism as to how soldiers attempted to visually represent the experience of civil war using photographs, paintings, and pencil and pen sketches.

We Choose to Go to the Moon (February 27, 2023): In July 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon. His achievement reflected the skill and determination of hundreds of thousands of Virginians and other Americans—engineers and technicians who worked to train, launch, land, and safely recover the crew. Now, as the United States once again journeys to the Moon, the VMHC is exploring the dramatic history of America’s mission to the Moon and the major role played by Virginia and Virginians—then and now. Join Sr. Director for Curatorial Affairs, Andrew Talkov, for some behind the scenes stories at two out of this world exhibitions—Apollo: When We Went to the Moon and From Virginia to the Moon—that explore the human space program before they launch in March 2023. 

Year-End Review (December 5, 2022): Each year, the VMHC adds hundreds of items to its already vast collections. Some of these improve our understanding of Virginia’s history, while others will help future generations better understand the times in which we live. Among our most recent acquisitions are objects associated with significant historical events as well as highly personal items that illustrate the daily lives of Virginians both past and present. Join the VMHC curators as they each share the stories behind their favorite objects added to our collections in 2022.

Reconsidering Columbus in Richmond (October 10, 2022): In the summer of 2020, demonstrators tore down Richmond’s statue of Christopher Columbus, which they viewed as a symbol of the oppression and massacre of Indigenous Americans. While some cheered, others lamented the removal of a long-standing national hero and source of Italian American pride. The installation of this statue in 1927 was similarly controversial, although for different reasons, and—like the events of 2020—thrust Richmond into the national spotlight. Join VMHC curator Karen Sherry to explore the complicated history of the Columbus monument and Columbus Day celebrations, as well as how their meanings have evolved over time. Also get a preview of a recent acquisition to VMHC’s collection that tells a rich, multilayered story of the origin of Richmond’s statue.

Cheers, Virginia! (August 15, 2022): In this virtual program, VMHC Curator L. Paige Newman highlights artifacts and stories that were on display in the short-term exhibition, Cheers, Virginia!, that explore how craft makers have used their talent and enthusiasm to connect with and represent Virginia's people, places, and history.

Folk Stories with William and Ann Oppenhimer (June 27, 2022): Join Curator Karen Sherry for a conversation with William and Ann Oppenhimer, long-time collectors and advocates of folk art, as they share stories about their work in the field and about the objects on view at the VMHC in Visionary Virginians: The Folk Art Collection of William and Ann Oppenhimer.

Meet Joseph Rogers (April 1, 2022): Joseph Rogers explains, "As the first ever Manager of Partnerships and Community Engagement at the VMHC it is my goal to continue the work of expanding the influence of the museum with partner institutions across the Commonwealth. I'm particularly excited about partnering with those in my birthplace of Southwest Virginia and to work with communities of all backgrounds to ensure that they see themselves in the story of our Commonwealth." This special edition of Curator Conversations features a conversation with one of our newest employees and positions: Get to know Joseph Rogers, Manager of Partnerships and Community Engagement, and what his expertise and position will bring to the VMHC.

Bringing it Together: Stories Behind “Our Commonwealth” (February 7, 2022): Join VMHC Sr. Director of Curatorial Affairs Andy Talkov and Curatorial Assistant Catherine Stergar as they discuss her role in the development of the exhibition, Our Commonwealth, and share behind-the-scenes stories about this exciting project.

New to the Collection (December 13, 2021): Every year, the VMHC adds hundreds of items to its already vast collections. Some of these improve our understanding of Virginia’s history, while others will help future generations better understand the times in which we live. Among our most recent acquisitions are objects representing significant historical events as well as personal items reflecting the daily lives of Virginians both past and present. Join the VMHC curators as they each share the remarkable stories behind their favorite objects added to our collections in 2021.

Violins of Hope (October 18, 2021): In conjunction with the VMHC’s participation in Violins of Hope-Richmond, Israeli violin maker Avshi Weinstein—son of Violins of Hope founder Amnon Weinstein—will join Andrew Talkov, VMHC Sr. Director of Curatorial Affairs, to discuss Violins of Hope and reflect on the powerful stories behind the instruments on display as part of the exhibition.

Who’s In Your Locket?: The Social Symbolism of Miniature Portraits (August 9, 2021): Before the invention of the photograph in the late 1830s, the only way to capture a person’s image was through a painting, drawing, or other work of art. Miniature painting developed as a special branch of art and miniature portraits took on special significance because they were exchanged as gifts, worn or carried on your person, and often embellished with locks of hair and other personal touches. Join VMHC curator Dr. Karen Sherry to learn about the miniature tradition and to view examples of these historical love tokens from the museum’s collection.

Secret Agency: Black Women Spies in the Civil War (June 14, 2021): In this program the VMHC’s new Curator Brittany Hutchinson examines the lives of two free Black women, Mary Jane Richards Denman (Mary Bowser) and Mary Touvestre, who operated as spies for the United States by moonlighting as enslaved women in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Both women understood that their race and gender would situate them within reach of privileged information and protect them from detection. Both women also knew that to be caught could result in their execution. Through “centering Black women to augment discourse” we can begin to understand how they leveraged the hypervisibility/invisibility of Black women in white Southern society to effectively undermine the Confederacy.

Partners in History (April 26, 2021): VMHC Curator L. Paige Newman and Mary C. Lauderdale, Operations & Visitor Services Manager of The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia (BHMVA), discuss our exciting new museum partnership.

A Tale of Two Trunks: Mary Custis Lee and James Jones (February 8, 2021): In 2001, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee discovered two trunks that had belonged to Lee’s eldest daughter, Mary Custis Lee, in a bank vault in Alexandria. The larger of the two was packed with papers and memorabilia not only documenting Mary’s own world travels and significant portions of her father’s military career and postwar life, but also the lives of individuals formerly enslaved by the Lee family. Nearly a decade later, another “trunk,” discovered in a barn, came to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Inside were the papers of James Jones and his descendants, members of an African American farming family from Prince Edward County, which presented a fascinating story of labor, political activism, and the struggles to realize the promises of emancipation. Join Sr. Director for Curatorial Affairs, Andrew Talkov, as we look at the stories of three remarkable lives nearly lost to history. 

Dear Diary (November 30, 2020): Our collections contain thousands of diaries written by Virginians which provide insight into their lives and private thoughts. In this virtual program, VMHC Manuscript Collections Curator Paige Newman peeks between the pages of some memorable diaries and examines the ways in which people feel compelled to write down their thoughts, hopes, and fears.

Tricks and Treats in the Collection (October 19, 2020): Not every item in the VMHC collections is always what it appears to be; seemingly ordinary objects can sometimes reveal stories as sweet as candy while items with extraordinary stories can leave us feeling deceived. Embrace the Halloween spirit with this special program!

Agents of Change (August 10, 2020): In this program, VMHC Curator of Museum Collections Dr. Karen Sherry presents an overview of the Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women's Suffrage to Today exhibition, exploring the continuing legacy of women’s civic participation in Virginia. Participants also joined in a conversation with one of the female changemakers featured in the Today’s Agents of Change display. Bessida Cauthorne White, a retired attorney and long-time activist, shared insights about her experiences, the changing nature of activism, and the 2020 protests sweeping Virginia and the U.S. 

A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100 (July 16, 2020): In this program, VMHC Senior Museum Collections Curator Dr. William Rasmussen gives a virtual tour of the A Landscape Saved exhibition that examines the accomplishments of the Garden Club of Virginia during its first 100 years of history. Topics include the GCV founders, the vision of GCV members, their love of horticulture and land preservation, and their crusade to end “billboard blight.” The restorations of dozens of historic gardens—funded by GCV’s Historic Garden Week—were introduced, as will GCV contributions to the preservation movement that has gripped the nation since 1970

Tomorrow's Treasures Today (June 15, 2020): Many of the 9 million artifacts in the VMHC’s collections have been donated through the generosity of its members. Through research, exhibitions, publications, and public programs, our curators share the stories of these objects with audiences across the country. They are also actively building the collection—capturing history as it happens and better representing Virginia’s history and the stories of the people who have shaped it. Learn more about the VMHC's collections in this special program with our curatorial team.