Letters from the Archives

Between the hours where I pretend to help our site coordinator fix things I find myself reading. Like my predecessor Lauren, I have become absorbed in the first hand accounts of Mrs. Sloane, her family and the people that influenced the development of this home and collection. Folder after folder I find myself in a different year, a new location and often times a trivial situation which was the pressing topic for the day.

It is hard to put an exact thumb on it, but somewhere in the last eighty years we have managed to lose the ability to compose a charming letter about coal rationing in our Oxford dorm room. You might blame the computer, cell phone or internet.. I am going to say it was the typewriter ( I am looking at you Remington Portable #1). Either way I find myself appreciating more and more the letters that are at this museum. 

Some of the letters and notes that reside in our archives are extremely personal and will never be shared with the public, sorry. There are clear boundaries that even I won’t overstep to draw attention. Lucky for you though there are hundreds that are just as interesting and will manage to offend nobody!

So I am happy to introduce a new series called, “Everything was more interesting before 1953: Because people took their time when putting thoughts on paper.”

This one comes from Douglas Volk whose paintings you can find around the Hermitage. Note the discussion on a future painting of one of the sons and connecting Mrs. Sloane with Samuel Yellin who also has work in this museum.

Letterhead: The National Arts Club New York, GramercyPark, Manhattan

In script:

October 2th, 1916

 dear Mrs. Sloane,

There is no use in dwelling on the good intentions I have had in the matter of writing, they would fill a lengthy letter, I am rather tempted to tell you what a thoroughly interesting and delightful time I had with you all during my stay in Norfolk. In fact so much of my time there seemed to be devoted to pleasure, that I wonder when I look at the portrait of Jr., how I managed to do so much to it. I can only hope to get into the picture as I go on with it, something of the charming spirit I carried away from your home, or at least the impression of it.

            I presume you have been waiting to get the name of that iron worker, please realize that I feel very guilty for not having sent it before this.

            Samuel Yellin is the artists name, 5520 Arch St.Philadelphia. He stands at the very head of his craft. There is another man almost as good. Mr. Park Edwards, a pupil of his I believe, address Brynathen  Penn. But I understand his prices are not much lower than Yellin’s, and he is doing all the iron work for a very wonderful Gothic cathedral at Brynathen, of which Mr. Crane is the other architect. The only thing to do of course is to write them if you follow up the trail.

             I had a very enjoyable stay of three days at Baltimore, putting up at the Country Club overlooking the beautiful golf links. I am glad to say that the Spring ? were delighted with the portrait, so there was little to do on it.

            I know the lovely weather we are having must have its origin at Norfolk, the Sunny day, reminded me of that glorious trip up the James, piloted by our good friend Capt. Carter.

            Mr. Sloane has not made his presence known to me here in New York, but I know that his time must have been taken up to 


State of the Herm Address

I know, I know…it’s been awhile. It has nothing to do with you, honestly, it’s me. I don’t think it is any reason to break up though, so let’s just brush this under the Persian rug and move on.

There has been plenty going on here over the last few months. I left you with fear in your hearts as we were dealing with a new crisis. I let the suspense build and then completely cut you off. I was not trying to tease you for this long, but other distractions got in the way (pretty girls, books, touching art, strategic plans, no directors, interns, babies born and the McRib) . Heck, I made it my New Years resolution to be better about blogging…off to a great start, right?

Anyway, we are still dealing with the fallout of that event. That said we are moving along at a very smooooth pace and have completed all of the cleaning and restoration of the plaster and paint in and around the damaged areas. Hoorrayy!!! High Fives to Suzanne Collins for making things look not broken and sad.

We continue to court conservators to restore the woodwork in the bedroom (why this isn’t a TV show is a mystery to me); meaning we are a bit off from having the room reopened for visitors. March/April comes to mind for having everything back in place, but there are no guarantees in the cut throat, edge of your seat world like a house museum.

Focusing on me for a minute (which you should twice a day, at least) I am well underway in the creation of the Hermitage’s first book. Titled….drummmm rolllll……..Hermitage Museum and Gardens. I know, groundbreaking, you need not say more. Look for it at your favorite bookstore this fall, or on Amazon, or at this museum. It will have pictures, words and my name on it. Everything you could possibly want in a piece of literature!

Cooler news than that involves our most awesome of paintings: Sir Edward Poynters, Cave of the Storm Nymphs. It is on loan to the Yale Center for British Art for the exhibition

Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century


If you are in New Haven check it out. If you are not in New Haven, go to New Haven and check it out. I know I am…it’s my job.

Happy Valentines Day.