Please Touch! Historic House Tours

Keeping historic house tours engaging for visitors can be a challenge, especially children’s tours. The traditional “Listen, don’t touch” guided tour is simply not appealing to youth in today’s digital world.  The authors of the ground-breaking manifesto, the Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums, are calling for historic sites to create a more visitor-centered paradigm.

I’ve recently re-imagined our house tour for younger audiences.  The new experience engages all five senses and utilizes the Socratic, or inquiry-based, teaching method. I believe these qualities make the tour a dynamic, interactive, and tactile experience.  Students are required to use their critical thinking skills to answer the questions guides pose.

Instead of docents telling students everything we think is important, they now use objects from the education collection, including full scale 3D printed replicas and carefully selected vintage material, as learning prompts.  The prompts are followed up with related archival photographs and a particular set of questions designed to lead students to an idea. Our younger guests become active participants in the tour as opposed to passive recipients of information which is a well-documented way to facilitate retention and promote deeper interest.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 9.01.30 AM

New material gleaned from our archives being shared during the tour include information about the couple’s beloved dogs, Corinne Melchers’ Scarlet Macaw, Polly, and the staff and servants the Melchers’ employed to help run their household, garden, and grounds. Life without the Internet and television is also discussed.

Early feedback, from both teachers and docents, has been positive.  My staff and I look forward to giving our original “Please Touch!” tour to this summer’s field trips and the many engaging conversations along the way.







9 inspiring artists’ studios you can visit

Via The Spaces

Artists’ studios are unfailingly fascinating, never more so than when left untouched after their passing. While some studios have the good fortune of being lovingly recreated – Brancusi’s Paris atelier was transported from the nondescript Impasse Ronsin to the Centre Pompidou by Renzo Piano in 1997 – it’s the ones that remain in their original spots that exert the strongest pull.  MORE…


Corinne Melchers Featured in ’10 Women Who Influenced Historic Artists’ Homes’

Women artists have historically been trailblazers in their chosen forms, prospering from their considerable talent and perseverance during a time when it was difficult for women to sustain themselves financially at all. Other women, many of whom where underappreciated artists in their own right, have worked tirelessly to preserve the works and homes of those they loved most. See below for a list of 10 women who greatly impacted Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (HAHS), and who are receiving much-needed recognition for their many contributions to the world of art.  More…

2018 Schedule of Events


Preschool Palette Classes

Guided Woodland Hikes
Last Sunday of each month, 2 pm
Conducted by Virginia Master Naturalists, these informative walks cover a mile of trails in both woodlands and fields and also touch on the historic ruins of Belmont’s past. Please wear sturdy footwear. Meet outside the Visitor Center.


Public Programs

Sunday, February 25, 2 pm
Curator’s Tour
The public is invited to a behind the scenes tour of the museum operation at Gari Melchers Home and Studio led by 35 year veteran at the property, Joanna Catron.

Members free, non-members $5. Limited to 12. Reservations required.
Contact: Meghan Pcsolyar at 540 654-1848

Thursday, March 8, 6-7 pm
Crow’s Nest: An Ecological Gem in Stafford County
An illustrated presentation by Mike Lott, Regional Supervisor/Northern Region Steward

Free admission. Pavilion at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.
Contact: Michelle Crow-Dolby at 540-654-1851

Sunday, March 25, 2-4 pm
Family Event
7th Annual Beeping Egg Hunt

This event provides an opportunity for visually impaired and blind children, along with their families, to participate in an audible egg hunt.

Free admission. Families are asked to RSVP to Michelle Crow-Dolby at 540-654-1851 by Friday, March 23.

Saturday, April 7, 8:30-4 pm
Sixth Annual Living in the Garden Symposium: Historic Trees and Gardens of Virginia
A day-long symposium presented by the Extension Master Gardeners of the Central Rappahannock Area featuring the topics: Gari Melchers’ garden restoration at Belmont by Beate Ankjaer-Jensen; a tribute to Virginia’s most significant trees by Nancy Ross Hugo; Jefferson’s botanical laboratory at Monticello by Peggy Cornett and antique roses by Connie Hilker.

MGACRA Members and Friends of Belmont $50/non-members $60 Includes light breakfast, lunch and tours.
Contact: Laura Westermeier at 540 479-3835

Saturday, April 7, 7:30 pm
Concert in the Studio
UMW Chamber Music Festival
The UMW Music Department presents an evening of chamber music featuring faculty members Andrew Kraus on the piano and Doug Gately, flute, performing the Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano by Claude Bolling.

Free admission. Seating limited. Reservations beginning March 19 for FOB and UMW Friends of Music, March 23 for the general public.
Contact: Meghan Pcsolyar at 540 654-1848

Sunday, April 8, 4 pm
UMW Chamber Music Festival
The UMW Music Department presents an afternoon of music featuring the Faculty Jazz Combo under the direction of Doug Gately and another program tbd.

Free admission. Seating limited. Reservations beginning March 19 for FOB and UMW Friends of Music, March 23 for the general public.
Contact: Meghan Pcsolyar at 540 654-1848

Sunday, April 22, 10 am – 5 pm
Spring Open House
The public is invited to tour the house, studio and galleries of the famous American painter Gari Melchers (1860-1932). Stroll the restored gardens and woodland trails, visit the Fannie Roots House on the property to hear about the latest restoration efforts between 12 and 3 pm, join a preschool palette class in the kitchen classroom between 11 am and 4 pm, and explore the museum shop.

Wednesday, April 25, 7 pm
UMW Flute and Guitar Ensembles
In celebration of National Guitar Month and National Jazz Appreciation Month, the UMW Guitar Ensemble will present a spring concert featuring arrangements of Classical, Jazz and Contemporary works under the direction of Bruce Middle. The UMW Flute Ensemble will perform selections from the Baroque to the Contemporary, including Latin American selections, under the direction of Doug Gately.

Free admission. Seating limited. Reservations required.
Contact: Meghan Pcsolyar at 540 654-1848

Free admission. Contact: Buffy Knappenberger at 540 654-1843

Thursday, May 17, 6 to 8 pm
Concert on the Lawn
Art after Hours
Join us for another toe-tapping evening of live music in the beautiful spring setting of our lawn and gardens. Enjoy beer and wine from Stafford County’s 6 Bears & a Goat Brewing Company and Potomac Point Winery. Two food trucks will be selling their delicious fare. Visit the studio and galleries of American artist Gari Melchers.

Free admission. Tickets for beer/wine $5 and food trucks accept cash or credit. To reserve your spot, contact Meghan Pcsolyar at (540) 654-1848.

Sunday, June 10, 2 pm
Talk and Tour
Architectural History Tour
Back by popular demand! Cultural Resource Manager Beate Ankjaer-Jensen will present a brief lecture followed by a tour of the historic house at Belmont. We will explore the building inside and out, decoding its architectural fabric to reveal how the building evolved over time.

Friends of Belmont $5, Non-members $10. Limited to 20 guests. Meets at Pavilion.
Contact Beate Ankjaer-Jensen at 540 654-1839

Sunday, September 9, 2 pm
The 92-minute film explores the many environmental and agricultural issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design process called “Permaculture,” which uses the principles found in ecosystems to help shift our impact from destructive to regenerative. Focusing mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the US, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices across the rural, suburban and urban landscapes.

Free admission. Pavilion at GMHS. Contact: Joanna Catron at 540 654-1841

October 5 through December 2
Spotlight Exhibition
Gossips by Gari Melchers
Gossips, a circa 1925 era painting by Gari Melchers reproducing a setting and personalities long familiar to Falmouth, Virginia, natives will make a first time special appearance at the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, thanks to a generous loan from a private collector.

Included with Museum admission. Contact: Joanna Catron at 540 654-1841

Sunday, November 11, 2 pm
The Long Shadow of J.S. Bach
UMW musicologist Brooks Kuykendall will consider examples across the 19th and 20th centuries demonstrating the towering influence of the 18th century German master.

Free admission. Contact: Joanna Catron at 540 654-1841

November 23 through December 30
Home for the Holidays
Enjoy the house decorated for the holidays in the spirit and style of American painter Gari Melchers and his talented artist-wife Corinne.

Included with museum admission during regular hours. Contact: Buffy Knappenberger at 540 654-1843.

Fall 2017 Schedule of Events

Thursday, September 14, 6:00-8:00 pm
Concert on the Lawn

Art after Hours

Join us for an evening of live modern folk music by Cabin Creek in the beautiful autumn setting of our lawn and gardens. Enjoy beer and wine from Stafford County’s 6 Bears & a Goat Brewing Company and Potomac Point Winery. The Gourmeltz Food Truck will be selling their delicious sandwiches and the Frufetti Bus will offer Hawaiian ice and other frozen treats.  Visit the Studio and galleries of artist Gari Melchers.

Free and open to the public. Tickets for beer/wine $5 and food trucks accept cash or credit. To reserve your spot, contact Meghan Pcsolyar or call her at (540) 654-1848.

Sunday, October 8, 2:00 pm
Look and See, 80 minutes

A cinematically beautiful and powerful voice for environmental activism, Look and See is a new film by Laura Dunn and Jeff Sewell. It showcases the story of 81-year old writer, farmer and conservationist Wendell Berry, whose eloquent poems and essays regarding the decline of family farming and the displacement of small-town farming communities to modern mass agriculture helped earn him the 2016 Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature.  Premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Pavilion at GMHS. Free and open to the public. This community screening is made possible by Dickinson Equipment, Inc., Fredericksburg, Virginia

Sunday, October 15, 2:00 pm
Talk and Tour
Architectural History Tour

Cultural Resource Manager Beate Ankjaer-Jensen will present a brief lecture followed by a tour of the historic house at Belmont. We will explore the building inside and out, decoding its architectural fabric to reveal how the building evolved over time.

Meets at Pavilion.  Friends of Belmont $5 Non-members $10.   Limited to 20 guests.
Contact Beate Ankjaer-Jensen or call her at 540-654-1839.

Thursday, October 26,   8:45 am – 4:00 pm    
Bus Trip – National Gallery of Art
Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry

Examines the artistic exchanges between Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries from 1650 to 1675, the height of their technical ability and pictorial mastery of domestic life. The exhibition brings together some 65 works by Vermeer and his fellow painters of the Dutch Golden Age, demonstrating how they inspired, rivaled, and surpassed each other in artistic achievement.

Open to Friends of Belmont and Staff $60, Non-members $70.  Lunch at the Cascade Café included.  Contact Meghan Pcsolyar  for more information or to reserve a spot.

Sunday, October 29, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Art Workshop
Portraits in Charcoal

Discover how a portrait is so much more than simply recording proportions; instead, it can be one of the most expressive images you can create. Identifying the simple patterns and forms that are the basis for a well-designed portrait, students will learn through demonstration to use form, value, and line to develop expression. Students should bring a large photo (at least 8″ x 10″) from which to work. Photos taken in natural light with clear contrast are recommended.  Instructor:  Marjorie Perrin.  Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and funded, in part, by the Paul Mellon Endowment and the Jean Stafford Camp Memorial Fund.

Age: High school students and older.  Meets in the Pavilion.  $15 per student.
Register online.

Sunday, November 5,   2:00 pm
Studio Talk
Painter’s Point of View with Henry Wingate

Acclaimed Virginia painter Henry Wingate showcases his work in the context of Gari Melchers’ art and Belmont’s spirit of place as important influences on his own personal artistic vision.  

Free with admission. Seating first come, first served.  Info: Joanna Catron

Sunday, November 12, 2:00 pm
Studio Talk
Painter’s Point of View with Marcia Chaves

Celebrated local painter Marcia Chaves showcases her work in the context of Gari Melchers’ art and Belmont’s spirit of place as it informs her own personal artistic vision.

Free with admission. Seating first come, first served. Info: Joanna Catron

Friday, November 24 through January 5, 2018
Holiday Decorations
Home for the Holidays

The House and Studio will be decorated for the season in the tasteful and natural style of its artist homeowners, Gari and Corinne Melchers. Included with museum admission.

Wednesday, December 6,   6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friends of Belmont Open House
Home for the Holidays

House, Studio and Pavilion are the setting for holiday decorations, music and refreshment.  Friends of Belmont. RSVP to Meghan Pcsolyar.

Paint Analysis Reveals Hidden Intentions

In 2013, Belmont hired Susan Buck, Ph.D. to conduct a comprehensive interior paint analysis of the house museum.  Buck is the same conservator who worked on the house’s exterior paint research which was featured in University of Mary Washington’s Today magazine in 2006.

The results, submitted in a 2-inch binder,  are exhaustive in scope and cover the house’s entire history.

We are not the first historic site to use paint analysis to give old rooms new looks and more accurate interpretations.  Mount Vernon and Monticello come to mind.   Learn more about restoration projects across the Commonwealth of Virginia by perusing the digital presentation of “Vivid View:  The Art and Science of Paint Analysis,” an exhibition on display at Richmond’s Wilton House Museum from March 31, 2017 to October 31, 2017.

I’d like to share with our blog followers a brief snapshot of the downstairs Melchers-period 1916 paint scheme using modern-day Benjamin Moore paints identified by Dr. Buck.

We are currently trying to identify funding sources to cover the cost of repainting the interior in its original Melchers era paint colors. More than likely, this project will not happen all at once, but on a room-by-room basis.

I am struck by how Susan Buck begins her report:

Belmont is particularly interesting …because the Melchers carefully created interiors to display their artworks and furnishings, and some rooms, such as the dining room, became backdrops for dramatic art installations.” Later in her report she states, “…the Melchers chose to change the house to suit their tastes and to allow them to best display their art and furnishings.

The Melchers’ were a colorful and art-loving couple who wanted their new home to reflect their European aesthetic.

First Floor Hallway

Imagine how this space would have looked with the walls painted  this color!


1916 Wall Color, First Floor Hallway

First-Floor Hallway, 2017


The parlor’s walls were first coated with two layers of unpainted wallpaper, which may have been applied by the Melchers to cover cracks and seal the plaster.  This was then covered with a textured light tan colored grasscloth. The grasscloth remained unpainted until after Corinne’s death. There are several layers of paint on top of the grasscloth.  It is still possible to see the textured wall surfaces in raking light.

sepia tan

1916 Grasscloth Color in Parlor

Parlor, 2017

Sun Parlor

The sun-filled parlor would look drastically different sporting this bold color choice.

cherry malt

1916 Sun Porch Wall Color

Sun Parlor, 2017

Dining Room

The colors aren’t too off base in the dining room, but this space is actually where things become interesting.

The dining room was most altered by the Melchers.  Paint archeology revealed that the cupboard to the left of the Frans Snyders painting was a freestanding piece of furniture before it became a fixture in 1916. The Melchers then had a copy of this cupboard made and installed it on the painting’s right.

The Melchers also added the two sconces on either side of the Frans Snyders painting, as well as the chair rail and paneling below, and the wood frame around the paining.

The Melchers consistently installed fiberboard as a quick way of covering old damaged plaster and as an inexpensive way to create new wall surfaces.

The dining room additions were all seemingly made to “frame” the Frans Snyders paining – thus making it the room’s undeniable focal point.

clearspring green

1916 Dining Room Color Scheme

smoke embers

1916 Dining Room Color Scheme

Dining Room, 2017


Comprehensive paint analysis shows that the built-in bookshelves and cupboards on the east wall were installed by the Melchers shortly after they purchased the property in 1916.

The current warm brown color is a good match to the first brown paint on the cupboards, bookshelves, and wainscoting.

The walls below the chair rail were painted brown by the Melchers to simulate wainscoting, and the walls above may have been papered over by the Melchers to cover cracks, and then painted blue.

province blue

1916 Library Color Scheme


1916 Library Color Scheme

Library, 2017



3-D Printing Brings Art to Life

Ever since reading this History Made New article in UVAToday, I’ve been determined to offer full scale 3-D printed replicas at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. And, this week, it became a reality!

Many thanks to University of Virginia Library information visualization specialist Will Rourk who traveled to Fredericksburg with all his gear to scan our artifacts and to Dwight Dart of the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Rapid Prototyping Lab for printing the finished pieces.

Julius Melchers (1829-1908), Gari’s father, was a sculptor and his son’s first art teacher. I chose Julius’ carved wooden busts to be scanned because they are so intricate and three dimensional.


The original carved busts are shown with their 3-D printed counterparts.

On the left is Margarethe, 1893, which is probably a portrait of Melchers’ granddaughter Marguerite, born in 1889 to Julius and Hedwig Melchers Stroh.  Bacchus, sculpted by Julius Melchers in 1892, depicts the Roman god of wine.


Gari Melchers, by Paul Manship, plaster, 1932


Portrait of Paul Manship by Gari Melchers, 1932

I selected the plaster bas-relief of Gari Melchers, executed in 1932 by sculptor Paul Manship, because I thought it would give the blind and visually impaired children who attend our annual Beeping Egg Hunt an excellent way to tactilely discover what Gari Melchers looked like.

Manship and Melchers were friends and members of the New Society of Artists in New York City. Their friendship resulted in Manship’s portrait of Gari and an oil sketch of the sculptor by Melchers in the same year. Historians believe the artists exchanged the two works as gifts.

Most of the artifacts that our guests see cannot be touched or handled. So, I plan to incorporate these plastic facsimiles into all areas of the museum’s educational programming to expand the sensory experiences our guests can enjoy and gain new ways to appreciate art.

I can’t wait!