Happy Chinese New Year!

By Trudy Gaba, Curatorial Intern

The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is China’s biggest and most important holiday. This year, it kicks off on Friday, February 16th and lasts until Sunday Feb. 18th. Today, the current Year of the Rooster will give way to the Year of the Dog. Each new year is marked by the characteristics of one of twelve zodiac animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Those who are fortunate enough to be born in the Year of the Dog are often considered to be loyal, honest, and selfless.


This decorative pottery piece from the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th Century), currently on view in the museum, is commonly referred to as a fu-dog. No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  The fu-dog is not actually a dog at all; it’s an Imperial guardian lion. As popular symbols in Chinese Buddhism, the statues of guardian lions traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, homes, tombs, and temples and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. The fu-dogs are symbolic, protective statues, and they are designed in pairs — one is female, the other is male. The female represents yin, and symbolically protects the people dwelling inside the home, while the male statue, representing yang, protects the structure itself.

Tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year is traditionally a time to honour household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors.  It is also a time to bring family together for feasting. In preparation for the holiday, houses are thoroughly cleansed to rid the home of any ill-fortunes that may be been collected during the old year. Ritual sacrifices of food and paper coins are also offered to the gods and ancestors. Paper scrolls with lucky messages are also pinned to the windows and gates of homes to bring good fortune and you may on occasion hear a few firecrackers going off, for they are used to frighten way evil spirits. Chinese immigrants brought these old-world traditions and rituals—including Chinese New Year celebrations—to the host country. These old-world rituals served as a link between immigrants and their home countries and created a sense of community in their adopted country.

Want to see more of our collection of Asian objects? Chinese Neolithic jade and archaic ceremonial bronze vessels from the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th Century – 771 BCE) from the permanent collection are also on view in the galleries!


A Valentine’s Day tribute to William Sloane (November 1, 1868-February 14, 1940)

By Trudy Gaba, Curatorial Intern

mr sloane001

Mr. Sloane was born in New York, November 1, 1868 and died in Norfolk on February 14, 1940. Those who knew him best described him as a man of quiet taste and unassuming manners. Although he much preferred to remain in the background, he had a genuine love for the finer things in life and a consuming desire to manifest such cultural values in the City of Norfolk. Mr. Sloane’s love of the arts is evident through the Hermitage Foundation he helped to establish in 1937, alongside his wife Florence. Together, they encouraged the development of arts and crafts and were dedicated to promoting the arts in the community. Upon his death, he made a large provision for the Foundation. In addition to the couple’s idyllic estate, he made it possible to establish a museum to feature the couple’s incredible collection of art and cultural objects, a school for the arts (now our Visual Art School), and a wildflower preserve and bird sanctuary. Mr. Sloane would be proud to see his wishes have reached fruition today and that his legacy and devotion to the fine and allied arts live on at the Hermitage. Join us at the museum or in the gardens this Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Spotlight Series # 1: Leave No Trace

Blog Post by Trudy Gaba

pic 1Fearsome Foursome posing around The Throne by Michael Garlington & Natalia Bertotti (located in the Center Hall) 

Leave No Trace is one of the top principles regarded amongst the Burning Community—at the close of an event there should be no physical trace of the activities that took place.  Such a feat is doable in the vast barren lands of the Black Rock desert; however, the captured essence of Burning Man as an art exhibition that was featured on the grounds and in the galleries of the museum left a few traces after its de-installation in mid-October. The Art of Burning Man was the first museum exhibition dedicated to the artwork of the annual event to be held at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens. Running from June 3 – October 14, 2017, guests were able to experience a bit of that magic playa dust through the large-scale sculptures and interactive installations created by fellow members of the Burner community. The Throne by Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti was one of the interactive installations which encouraged guests to sit and playfully pose amongst the patterned backdrop. After the final event, the throne was de-installed, leaving several unsightly holes in need of a little TLC.

pic 2Maeve Bristow, Architectural Conservator, gently sanding the surface of a repaired hole.

A couple holes in the wall sounds like no big deal, right?  It’s something many of us as home owners and renters have either encountered or accidentally created at some point. A simple run to Home Depot or a quick Yellow Pages search can easily erase that Do-It-Yourself-Project-Gone-Wrong or if we are being completely honest here, a drunken late-night stumble in which elbow met plaster. But for an early 20th century historic house museum, the remedy is not so simple. Repairing the numerous holes left in the surface of the wall from the de-installation of The Throne requires a special phone call to a highly specialized conservator. Maeve Bristow of Black Creek Workshop was kind enough to answer our call.

As a trained art conservator, specializing in architectural painted surfaces and historic interiors, Maeve ensured that the historic interior walls of the Hermitage House would once again regain their marvellous lustre. Maeve was kind enough to chat with me about this restorative process and the current treatments she will be applying to the wall. Before the painting stage can commence, priming, filling, and sanding any holes and cracks must first occur. This helps to ensure a stable surface on which the paint will later be applied.

pic 3Close up of the treatment applied to fill the holes.

pic 4Maeve applying a textured layer of paint with a cloth.

As the above photos illustrate, the wall consists of several different paints that had been applied with textured applications, so Maeve must determine the right paint samples to use that will blend seamlessly with the original paint. Visual analyse also detected a tinted varnish had been used as a finishing coat, which she will also have to match and reapply. The final result proves why Maeve comes highly recommended. There is no visible trace left from the installation process or the subsequent removal of the artwork.


Maeve hails from the Isle of Mann (I’ll give you a quick moment to google maps it) and her work in historic preservation can be seen all over Scotland, so the next time you are deciding on your vacation destination, trade in those pants for a Scottish kilt and head on over to Bonny Edinburgh. You can polish off a wee pint and walk on up the Royal Mile to check out the stone conservation work she performed at St. Giles Cathedral as well as on the murals of the Mansfield Traquair Trust, which are often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel” of Scotland.

pic 5Maeve Bristow working on the Phoebe Anna Traquair wall paintings in Mansfield Church, Edinburgh.

If a Trans-Atlantic flight isn’t your cup of tea, there are other local opportunities here in Virginia that showcase her work, so pack up the SUV with the family and road trip on over to Mount Vernon to see her restorations on George Washington’s “New Room,” formerly known as the Large Dining Room.

pic 6Maeve working on the ceiling in the New Room at Mount Vernon

Quick little blurb about the writer who has hijacked the Hermitage’s Collection Blog. My name is Trudy Gaba. I am an alumnus of Norfolk Academy and Virginia Tech (GO H-O-K-I-E-S!), so my fondness for this state runs deep. I’ve recently returned home from a year spent abroad in the UK completing my Master’s Degree in Renaissance and Early Modern Art at the University of Edinburgh. I have a passion for the arts of Asia and Western Europe and will be working at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens as a Curatorial Intern. I’m excited to be collaborating with the head curator, Lindsay Neal, on several upcoming projects she has in the works, so bookmark this page to your favorites and stay tuned for new content and updates!

pic 7



Hello, everyone!  Well, it’s probably about time that I get this post up so that #1 I can let everyone know where Colin has been and #2 I can introduce myself on here.  For those of you who follow this, you know that Colin was an absolutely amazing asset to the Hermitage for more than 5 years.  He accomplished incredible things for the museum, the collections, and community as an Asian art expert.  He was also quite the gifted and witty blogger.   But he is on to greater and greener pastures now…..quite literally.  In August of 2016, Colin went back to Scotland to pursue his PhD at the University of Edinburgh.  Don’t feel too badly for him– I have it on good authority that he is living THE life—travels to beautiful places, plenty of beer in hand to guide his studies, and many sweater vests.  We miss his humor, sarcasm, and infinite knowledge, but in all seriousness, we couldn’t be happier for him as he continues his research.

So who am I?

My name is Lindsay Neal.  Although I have worked at the Hermitage Museum since 2014, I have only been the Curator of Collections since 2016, when Colin departed.  I’m originally from the great Midwestern state of Ohio (Cincinnati, to be exact), moved to Charleston, SC for a brief time after graduate school, and landed in Norfolk, Virginia in 2013.   And now that things are slowing down a bit for the year (I’ll fill you in on all the exciting details in later posts), I thought it was perhaps time I introduce myself on this blog thing.

I will be honest: I spend very little time posting from personal social media accounts these days.  I am just not as savvy as my teen-aged MySpace self used to be (probably for the best).  And so it has been a slow process building up to a blog post.  But anyway, Colin’s advice to me before his departure: “Just don’t screw* it up (*edited for audience).”  No pressure, right?  So I have been trying to live by those words ever since.  They are literally printed on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper and pinned to the wall above my desk as my daily reminder.   I have also been intimidated to follow in the blogging footsteps of both Colin and his incredibly inspiring predecessor, Lauren.  There is so much wit and intelligence between the two of them!  This blog has been pure gold thanks to their contributions over the years.  So rather than trying too hard to fill the void of these great people, here is my simple promise to you:   While I ultimately hope I can continue this blog in the spirit of what they started (and maybe even provide an ounce of their wit and wisdom?), I plan to just be me and hope this continues to be interesting to you.   If nothing else, I promise to post pretty pictures and give you a sense of the things I am working on.

I also have some fantastic people volunteering with me throughout the year, so I will have them take over the blog from time to time to share their perspective of the various happenings here.

So, let’s have a go of it, shall we?

DSC_0415Picture of the Herm looking particularly pretty.  Don’t you just want to jump into that festive tree?  Our Diver sure does!    

Yolimas wreath (1)Yolimas wreath 2

Shout out to the amazing Yolima Carr for creating the beautiful wreaths adorning the doors and windows around the museum this season.    

And on that note, happy holidays to everyone!


The Sloane Collection. A Book….that you read with your eyes and feel with your hands.

For a hot minute I thought it had been two years since I wrote a blog entry. It hasn’t!!! Ha, a 7 month hiatus seems pretty normal for me, and of course the reason I pop back on is to shamelessly promote a new book.

Once again I think we have done a wonderful job. By we I mean photographer Christiana Caro, designer Jennifer Lucy and me, Colin the Great. If you’re worried that we wrote something with lots of words (reading, that chore) find comfort in the fact that there are only 20 pages of typed print. Mind you I nailed those words so hard they could act as the foundation for a new Hermitage….so fear not.

Enough about me for a minute (unless you want to know more?). The real stars of this publishing are the images. Christiana knocked them out !!!! Do you see those four exclamation points? That is 3 X your standard excitement.  She is a master with a camera and you all will fall in love with her work.

The book centers around the collection (obvi) and its place in the home. Its a little bit of everything, a little quirky, a little historical and a lot of fun. The cover is so good looking that you will think you have picked up a magical tome that will guide you through Middle Earth. I am getting Mordor hot just thinking about it.

So…come on over to the Hermitage Museum. Buy a copy for $29.99 (plus tax, because we need to pay teachers more and I want better roads). And then tell me how great we are. If you don’t like it then I will ignore you for the rest of our professional relationship. So no big deal 🙂


Burning things Down

One of the mysteries of the Hermitage that continues to draw interest is the tale of what happened to the lovely cottage we once had on the shoreline. If you are unfamiliar with this building there once was a rustic log cabin, that housed artists like Harriet Frishmuth and Helen Turner, on the banks of the then non polluted Lafayette river (swimmable, fishable sometime soon). It appears in numerous photographs in our archives and in our recent book.

It looks like this….

The log cabin is on the bottom right. At least it was....

The log cabin is on the bottom right. At least it was….

Well….that thing super burned down.


So what happened to this awesome little shack that would have been perfect for selling beers on a Saturday afternoon in 2015??? Children happened. Specifically an 8 and 10 year old.

Two lovely young ladies decided to have a marshmallow roast on September 4th decades ago and in the midst of their joy for burning sugar they managed to light fire to the cabin (possibly a flung mallow that was aflame). They were unscathed, thankfully, but the little cabin by the river was a goner. Now all that remains are the fragmented steps of what could have been. They are an ever present reminder of all of the cocktails we could have had together. Truly haunting…

Funny enough the Sloanes were reluctant to take children to juvenile court (because they are nice) and instead resolved the situation with some heated letters and I am guessing an exchange of checks.

There is an equation for this situation: c + f = D, which of course is shorthand for children plus fire equals devastation.

Answers to your Questions

Things have calmed down here ish, but there is still plenty happening behind the scenes. We are gearing up for new exhibitions and lots of summer programming that you better come out for…seriously, if you don’t come we will all lose our jobs. Until then enjoy these questions from the wall!

*There was an increased output of inappropriate verbiage that I found to be absolutely hysterical, but have been told by the upper brass that I can’t repeat….bummer*


-Thank you for bringing this to Norfolk – Jen (you are totes welcome)

-You should have music outdoors to accompany the lights. (That would be extra work annnnd nobody feels like doing that)

-One of the paintings is so creep. (my bad?)

-The lights are the bomb.com – celine, phoebe, sam

-I heart y’all

-This house was designed by a crazy person!

-This would be a nice place for something “haunted” during October. Like a artsy pretty ghost walk or scrooge type thing. Not in these indoor parts though. (Great News!!!! we aren’t doing any of that)

-Kick logic out and do the Impossible!! (yes….totally, yes)

-I am Harry Potter. (I wish you were, so bad)

-Theres GHOSTS. (noooope)

-Authentic Floors. (Thanks for noticing)

Q and A:

Q-Whats your deal with Abe Lincoln

A-Our deal is a man named Douglas Volk whose father made the life mask for Lincoln. This made Douglas a big Lincoln fan and a man who idolized his fathers work.

Q-Why dont you put the prices on this stuff?

A-Cause even if I did, you still couldn’t afford it.

Q-What is the meaning of light?

A-Even the universe is afraid of the dark

Q-Can I spend the night here? You should organize a girl scout sleepover.

A-I have a fear of thin mint skid marks all over my floors and walls. We are going to have to think about this one a bit more.

Q-Who in fact let the dogs out?

A-They were never in.

Q-What would you like on your gravestone?

A-It could have been worse

Q- D U Hello?

A- May B

Q-Why do humans think i can never be a mermaid?

A-Because you probably are a poor swimmer who doesn’t like to eat seafood.

Q-Why does it matter what humans think?

A-It doesn’t. We are likely just star dust that managed to drift into these forms for a fleeting moment of galactic time only to be forgotten by the rest of the universe.

Q-Why is the table blank

A-I iz lazy

Q-Ever seen a grown man naked?

A-yes, every single day in the mirror and man does he look gooooood.

Q-How old is this place?

A-107 years old

Q-What is your favorite color?


Q-When were these painting done?

A-between 1850 and 1950. At least most of them.

Q-How many years did it take to carve the room downstairs?

A-Dining room: 3 Drawing room: 2