The collection of artifacts, images, and media, begins in the Valentine’s lobby with a display of objects celebrating Greek families and the 2017 centennial anniversary of the founding of Richmond’s Greek Orthodox Church. As it continues into the Stettinius Community Galleries on the main level, It’s All Relative: Richmond Families (1616-2016) explores the changing definition of family in our Richmond community over the past five centuries. As communities across the country actively engage in a national dialogue concerning what constitutes a family, this is a fascinating look at what makes Richmond families unique.
Seeing the diverse display, sourced from the Valentine’s vast collections, newly gathered stories, and a few special loans, reminded me how fortunate we are to live in a city so rich with history, and one so rooted in America’s foundation. In one display case was a collection of artifacts from the days of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. On a nearby wall, a Ukrop’s sign was mounted. The contrast between the two pieces underscores Richmond’s rich timeline, from its settlement, progress, setbacks, and rebirths across several centuries.
It was especially interesting to learn more about some well-known Richmond families through their heirlooms, like the Wickhams, Ballards, Clays, and yes, the Poes, which are actually the Allan Family of Richmond. Edgar’s mother’s untimely death in 1811 led to the separation of him and his siblings forever, with Edgar joining his foster family in Richmond.
Proving that people tend to naturally gravitate toward video, the LED displays were popular destinations throughout the evening. Three adjoining screens scrolled through images from the Valentines collections, as well as some on loan, while another screen features contemporary interviews of many Richmond families, collected in collaboration with VCU professor Dana Ollestad. One of the families was on-hand to view the finished product, and it was neat to see the women and their little one watching their individual story of family play back.
One of the show-stopping pieces is the mid-19th century Italian marble mantelpiece – originally added to the 1812 Wickham House by second owner John Ballard. And down from that is a cover of our very own RFM! It was truly very humbling to see the magazine included with such historical pieces.
Be sure to make your way down to the Valentine to check out this exhibition, on display through June 18, 2017. It would make a great destination for visiting family this Christmas holiday. Children under eighteen and active-duty military are always free. Visit the Valentine for hours and admission details.