The Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is happy to announce the launch of its first digital archive, which documents the formation of the museum’s world-renowned Fabergé and Russian decorative arts collection at http://faberge.vmfa.museum. In addition, the VMFA Archives has submitted the finding aid for the collection to the Virginia Heritage database, its first submission.
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 52 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 New York based art dealers Alexander and Ray Schaffer, owners of the prominent art and antiques gallery A La Vieille Russie.
In all, over 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 free 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.
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.
This project was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.