Reynolda Profile: Virginia Holbrook, Assistant to the Executive Director

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Reynolda Profile: Virginia Holbrook, Assistant to the Executive Director

By Trish Oxford, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications | @TrishatReynolda

Virginia Holbrook is a radiant presence in her office on the second floor in the Historic House. As assistant to the Museum’s Executive Director, Virginia exudes a calm confidence that always makes you feel like “everything is taken care of,” an invaluable quality for her role at the Museum that she’s held since 2004.

Virginia was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and grew up in Winston-Salem.  “I grew up in Ardmore, in a large family (five children), in the days when children could spend the afternoon exploring the creek or riding their bicycles to the store or taking the bus downtown to have lunch and see a movie--all without adult supervision. I think that the confidence we children gained from safely navigating our world has carried over into my adult life; I look forward to new experiences and feel that no obstacle I encounter is insurmountable.”

Virginia graduated from local schools, including R. J. Reynolds High School and is an alumna of Wake Forest University. She spent twenty years in Alabama before returning to Winston-Salem in 2002 and two years later joined the Reynolda House staff.

I asked Virginia what has changed during her tenure at the Museum and she shared: “After Allison Perkins was hired as executive director, in summer 2006, I began to see the impact of her efforts to direct the Museum to reevaluate its alignment between mission and all other aspects of its operations. Now, thanks to her leadership (and despite the economic downturn of 2008), Reynolda House is a showcase for national caliber traveling exhibitions, innovative programming, and community and University partnerships. What has not changed at Reynolda House is a Museum-wide commitment to excellence in all that we do.”

Last week I asked Virginia a few questions over email.

What is your favorite work of art in the Museum’s collection?

My favorite work in the Museum is not in the art collection, but in the Estate Archives collection. I am utterly fascinated by the photographs, diaries, cards and letters, blueprints, and even the grocery orders, in our holdings. They tell us so much about the families who walked the hallways of Reynolda, and, to me, the people who lived and worked here are the the most interesting aspect of the estate.

What is your favorite part of the historic house?

I feel so cozy and comfortable in the kitchen! Perhaps because I love to cook as well, when I sit in the kitchen, I can easily imagine the aroma of baking bread or simmering stew. The “battle scars” in the kitchen, such as the dents in the cork flooring where a sturdy work table must have once stood, remind me of people and times long past.

Have you attended a program at the Museum outside of your work duties? If so, what was it?

I have attended several programs outside of my work duties, but my favorite--and one that I attend annually--is A Christmas Memory, the one-woman play staged each December at Reynolda House by Robin Voiers. This simple play reinforces my belief that anything you do for a child--any child--is always worthwhile. You may never know or see the impact of your words or your kindness or your generosity, but I am certain it affects that child forever.

What historical perspective, story, or person of Reynolda most interests you?

I am especially drawn to the story of the life of Z. Smith Reynolds. He was just six years old when his father died in 1918, and twelve when his mother died in 1924. The impact of this double loss, and his coming of age without the love and guidance of his parents, may account for some of the ill-considered decisions he made as a teenager. One can only speculate how vastly different the life of this bright and adventurous young man might have been had his childhood not been marked by traumatic loss.


Share Virginia's love of the Estate Archives? Follow the @ArchiveReynolda blog series, written by our the Director of Archives, Bari Helms.

Read other staff profiles on the CurateReynolda blog.


Comments

Loved reading - well said Virginia!

loved reading this, we have a lot in common.

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