December 2, 2022

Town Talk: Scott Harris/UMW Museums (WFVA; B101.5)

Harris, Catron Interviewed for Article on Belmont Staircase

The horseshoe staircase at Belmont, home of Gari Melchers.

The horseshoe staircase at Belmont, home of Gari Melchers.

UMW Museums Executive Director Scott Harris and Belmont Assistant Director and Curator Joanna Catron were interviewed for an article in The Free Lance-Star about the restoration of the “horseshoe staircase” at Belmont.

Some stories are quick turnarounds I can share mere hours after learning the details.

Today’s story—about the removal and restoration of the “horseshoe staircase” at the front of Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Falmouth—is not one of those. That’s partly due to COVID-19 delays, but also because of having to digest more than a century of history.

The staircase was likely commissioned in Philadelphia around 1850. The company doing the restoration, Keswick-based Stokes of England, has done work for Prince Charles, the sultan of Oman and Patricia Kluge.

In an earlier column, I mentioned that a restored steamboat pilothouse in the Northern Neck had been voted one of Virginia’s most endangered artifacts. That brought a message from Scott Harris, the executive director of museums at the University of Mary Washington. He said the horseshoe staircase railing at Belmont was among the first artifacts to get that designation a decade or so ago.

I joined Harris and Joanna Catron, the assistant director and curator at Belmont, to examine the staircase. The wrought-iron railing was most likely installed in about 1850 by Joseph Burwell Ficklen, the owner of the estate at that time. Read more.

COMMENTARY: George Washington’s complex relationship with James Monroe (The Free Lance-Star)

Town Talk: Scott Harris/UMW Museums (Newstalk 1230)

Harris Discusses UMW Museums on “Town Talk”

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

UMW Museums Executive Director Scott Harris appeared on “Town Talk with Ted Schubel” to discuss the challenges that museums are facing during COVID-19 and the virtual events planned in the coming months for Gari Melchers Home and Studio and the James Monroe Museum. Listen here.

Harris Discusses Impact of Pandemic on UMW Museums

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

University of Mary Washington Museums Director Scott Harris was interviewed for an article in The Free Lance-Star on the pandemic’s impact on area museums.

 

Scott Harris, director of the University of Mary Washington Museums—which oversees the James Monroe Museum and the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, as well as the Papers of James Monroe—said the loss of admissions and event revenue since March has been “a very large financial hit” for the two museum sites.

“[The financial loss] is only partially offset by savings from not paying hourly wage employees, such as front desk and interpretive staff, and some other savings of on-site costs, such as catering at events, regular trash service, etc … ,” Harris said.

He said membership renewals at both the James Monroe Museum and the Gari Melchers Home and Studio have been “fairly steady” and some members have increased their giving levels.

“It remains to be seen what General Assembly actions will do to our state appropriations,” Harris said. Both UMW museums belong to the state of Virginia and receive funding from the assembly.

Both sites have a “benchmark” reopening date of Sept. 14, when UMW students begin their fall semester, he said. Read more.

Harris Speaks to ‘Town Talk’ about UMW Museums

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris

University of Mary Washington Museums Executive Director Scott Harris recently spoke to Ted Schubel of ‘Town Talk’ on WFVA 1230 about the impact of the pandemic on the James Monroe Museum and Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Closed since March and unlikely to open until August, both museums are offering new and innovative online programming. Listen here.

Gari Melchers Home & Studio Offers Digital Learning for All Ages

Gari Melchers Home & Studio (GMHS) is one of the best-preserved artist homes and working studios in the country. Although it is currently closed to the public in an effort to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is looking for new ways to engage the public.

GMHS is responding to rapidly changing times by compiling existing online material and creating new experiences under their new LEARN webpage found here at garimelchers.org/education/learn, which was featured in a recent Free Lance-Star article.

Included on LEARN are links to Preschool Palette and Picturing New Connection lesson plans, activities based on the museum’s collection, videos, printable coloring pages, popular blog posts, and a virtual tour of the museum’s wedding and reception event space.

Education and Communications Manager Michelle Crow-Dolby, inspired by the global #MuseumfromHome movement, ramped up the museum’s social media presence by sharing posts meant to educate, stimulate, and inspire. Gari Melchers’ many floral still life paintings star in #MuseumBouquet while the artist’s atmospheric paintings star in #MuseumMomentofZen.

Assistant Director and Curator Joanna Catron practiced proper social distancing while recording her Facebook private studio tour.

“Our mission is founded on preservation and education,” adds Scott Harris, executive director of University of Mary Washington Museums. “During this virus emergency, as we ensure the safety and integrity of our museum and its collections, we’re striving to fulfill our educational mission creatively online.”

Gari and Corinne Melchers lived through another worldwide virus crisis, the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. The couple was familiar with quarantines, the wearing of protective gear, social distancing, and other aspects of life during a pandemic we face today. Watch the video.

Follow GMHS on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Local Children Curate Exhibition at James Monroe Museum

“Curating Ideas,” a new project through the James Monroe Museum, gives Fredericksburg youngsters the opportunity to curate museum exhibitions. During the six-week program, students from Old Town Academy shadowed curator Jarod Kearney to learn how museum exhibitions are curated. Students then chose an object in the museum to research and design their own exhibition around. In an article in The Free Lance-Star, Scott Harris, executive director of University of Mary Washington Museums, said the students’ exhibits showed their understanding of “the importance of objects for telling stories.” Read more. 

“Curating Ideas,” a new opportunity for home-schooled students at the James Monroe Museum (The Free Lance-Star)