Internet, Meet Interns

Can you believe Colin drove all the way to Canada last week? It was rough around here without him.The good news is he brushed up on his wood-chopping and flannel-wearing skills while he was away:

This picture was actually taken in Canada.

We can all agree those are important skills to include on your resume. Another special skill is changing light bulbs — a task which Colin completed with great alacrity mere moments after arriving back at work. I was all, “oh hello Colin, nice to see you; can you please change these light bulbs?” I don’t like climbing ladders, yasee.

In other news: it is H-O-T in Norfolk. Our temperamental, long-suffering air conditioner is chugging away with the energy of a much younger model.  The staff’s collective fingers are crossed that it will last through this latest heat wave. It’s awfully hard to believe that Mr. and Mrs. Sloane lived here without air conditioning for so many years. I would have spent the years 1905-1950 half-crazed, a cool washcloth pressed against my eyes.

What on earth have we been up to behind the scenes? Well, first and foremost, we have some new faces working with us for the summer. Internet, meet Nina, the first of three Curatorial interns.

Nina just finished her freshman year at UVA where she is majoring in art history. We are all very impressed with Nina so far, particularly because she is so young. I mean, what were you doing the summer after your first year of college? I’m pretty sure I was working as a lifeguard and accumulating parking tickets. Nina’s main project is helping Yolima research the origins of the long overgrown formal gardens, and on Mondays she helps Sara organize the archives. I checked on the two of them last Monday — you would not believe the pages and pages of handwritten lists they are generating. The two of them are doing such thorough work, and though it is tedious it is crucial to the ultimate usefulness of those resources. I am so excited to [eventually] have a working archive!

The Hermitage loves Sara

In other news, the view from my desk is rather pleasing this afternoon:

Colin, Ashley and I are doing some serious movin’ and shakin’ in collections storage. Look at them go! We’ve found some interesting objects over the last few weeks; expect to see a fresh round of art and artifacts on display in the house by the end of the summer. Even better: all this hard work will mean a search-able, online database of our collection by the end of the year — mark my words.

And Everything was in Riotous Bloom

Yolima put on her fancy pants this past Friday and left us for the Historic Landscape Institute at Monticello. She is always learning new things and finding ways to improve our twelve acre site. Yolima arrives very early in the morning and she is often the first person I see when I stumble in at 9. I missed her this morning, so as I wandered through the grounds feeling bereft I snapped a few pictures of her glorious handiwork.

If you haven’t taken a stroll through our gardens lately, it is high time. See for yourself:

Not a day goes by I do not feel privileged to work in this lovely place.

So you want to work in a museum…

Seeing as it is Intern Season here at the Hermitage (no, we don’t shoot to kill), I thought I would write a snappy post on working in a museum. Landing a job at a museum is tough work, and as coordinator of our intern program it seems I am in the business of squashing dreams.

Unfortunately, AAM (American Association of Museums) beat me to the punch on this blog post. I’m not sure who Greg Aukerman is, but I know I would like to shake his sassy hand. If you are a museum professional or if you just need a good laugh, please click here. He had me at “spiraling abyss.”

Colin oversees intern Frank. (That is not a real gun; however, that is how Colin really stands.)

Coming this week: profiles of our summer interns! They have such bright and shining faces.

The British Are Coming

Chatsworth (ahem, Pemberley) House in Derbyshire, England

I’ve tried a few times to start this post in a manner that befits its contents — but, you guys, I am way too excited for wit:

In three weeks I am flying to London to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School for the study of historic houses. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation is graciously funding my trip. (I am secretly afraid the selection committee thought I was from the Hermitage — as in, the one in St. Petersburg — so I guess we’ll have to see what happens when I turn up, fully American.)

A few years ago I spent some time in the museum services department at Biltmore. My excellent boss waxed elegiac about her time spent at Attingham and suggested I apply for a spot. “The food is awful,” she said, “but the experiences you gain and the places you see will transform you.”

The concept of Americans embarking on transformative tours of English country houses is not a new one. Florence Sloane, our benefactress, embarked on several such tours and I am humbled and delighted to follow in her footsteps. Mrs. Sloane had a keen eye and was an avid note-taker; the journals from her travels will be my constant companion at Attingham, and I am looking forward to making similar observations. So much of what I will study in England is reflected in the Hermitage.

I’m not certain what kind of internet access I will have on the road, but expect some serious blogging replete with country house photos.

Many, many thanks are due to those intrepid few who recommended me for the program and wrote letters on my behalf. Perhaps the biggest thanks goes to our Director who didn’t laugh in my face when I asked for three weeks off to go to England. Not only did she avoid laughing, she encouraged me! The collective will gathered behind this trip is astonishing and I cannot wait to represent our beautiful museum to the very best of my abilities.

Perhaps most importantly, I promise not to do this:

Rejoice Greatly

Today I want to share with you the painting that always elicits a gasp of delight from our lady visitors (and a few of the more sentimental fellas). The colors are so soft; the cheeks of the girls so rosy; the scene so inviting… it’s impossible not to fall in love with Rejoice Greatly. This painting (one of the largest in our collection) will have pride of place in the new upstairs painting gallery.

Stephen Reid
British (1873 – 1948)
Rejoice Greatly, 1923
Oil on canvas

Painted to commemorate the Allied victory of World War I, Stephen Reid’s Rejoice Greatly quietly reflects upon the sacrifice of those servicemen whose efforts led to the continuing freedom of Great Britain and continental Europe. The scene depicts Reid’s daughter, Jessie, and her friend lighting paper lanterns to guide the victorious troops home. The setting is the artist’s studio garden in St John’s Wood, London, which sadly fell victim to Axis bombing during World War II.

Stephen Reid was a lifelong friend of Mr. and Mrs. Sloane.  Handwritten correspondence in the Hermitage archives portrays the relationship between Reid and the Sloane family as warm and mutually respectful. Mrs. Sloane eventually purchased four major works by Reid, including the elaborate allegorical painting on the door of the Hermitage dining room. Reid’s paintings are also found at the National Gallery, London, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Conservation Needs: Examination and solvent tests, surface clean to remove dust and grime, revarnish surface, corrective reframing and installation of a backing board, consolidate frame finish, surface clean frame, retouch loss and wear to frame, photography and written documentation

Conservation Cost: $3000