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Volume 24, Number 8 — August 2017

VMFA launches digital Fabergé Archive

October 18, 2016

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts announces the launch of its first digital archive, which documents the formation of the museum's renowned Fabergé and Russian decorative arts collection at www.faberge.vmfa.museum. Organized through the museum's Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library, this project was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Bequeathed to the museum upon her death in 1947, Lillian Thomas Pratt's Fabergé collection consistently remains one of the highlights of the museum's permanent collection. In 1917, Pratt married her second husband, John Lee Pratt, a self-made millionaire engineer and businessman with General Motors. She began purchasing her collection of over 500 items, while accompanying her husband on business trips to New York City in the 1930s and 1940s. She eventually bought five of the 50 Russian Imperial Easter Eggs created by the Fabergé firm. Comprised of correspondence, invoices, price tags, and detailed item descriptions, the archive illuminates Pratt's mind as a collector, as well as the close relationship she formed with her dealer, Alexander Schaffer.

"There is tremendous interest in VMFA's Fabergé collection, both among scholars and the general public," VMFA Senior Deputy Director of Collections and Conservation Stephen Bonadies said. "This online archive will allow us to share unique information about these objects with more people and, potentially, learn more about the collection for our own research purposes."

More than 700 items have been digitized, resulting in 1,500 downloadable image files, all of which are available to the public via a new online portal dedicated to digital resources about Fabergé and Russian decorative arts. The website provides access to the digitized Pratt archive, newly filmed videos of the imperial Easter eggs opening, new 360° views of the imperial Easter eggs, and downloadable resources for educators. The website also links to the new Fabergé at VMFA mobile application that allows users to explore the collection through five different historical perspectives and design and share a Fabergé mini egg.

Designed by the creative technology company Vibethink, and powered by Piction, the museum's digital asset management system, the launch of the portal coincides with the highly anticipated return of the Fabergé collection, which will be displayed in a new suite of renovated galleries opening to the public on October 22, 2016.

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, conferences, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to a wide array of special exhibitions, visitors have the opportunity to experience the museum's global collection of art that spans more than 5,000 years. VMFA's permanent holdings encompass more than 35,000 artworks, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, the finest collection of Art Nouveau outside of Paris, and one of the nation's finest collections of American art. VMFA is home to important collections of English silver and Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British sporting, and modern and contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan, and African art. In May 2010, the VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its eighty-year history. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the only art museum in the United States open 365 days a year with free general admission. For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit www.vmfa.museum.


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