Give him just a little more time…Oatlands Tortoise nominated #VATop10

Tortoise Sundial in garden at Oatlands

Tortoise Sundial in garden at Oatlands

“Give me just a little more time,” sings Oatlands’ tortoise sundial. “My column has come loose from my base and I need a little conservation work.”

The historic sundial is a favorite picture-taking spot in the garden. It was brought to Oatlands after Edith and William Corcoran Eustis purchased the property in 1903 as their country home. Made of pink marble with the tortoise at the base, the sundial platform is bordered with raised oak leaves and acorns. Mrs. Eustis’s passion was gardening and she placed the sundial prominently in her terraced garden.

Oatlands has nominated this iconic collection piece to the Virginia Association of  Museum’s (VAM) annual Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program. Visitors to Oatlands and other historic properties may not realize that preservation includes not just the buildings and the grounds but also the collection pieces in the buildings and on the property. Artifacts require regular care, often daily, and sometimes at significant expense. In the case of the tortoise sundial, its column has come loose over the years and needs to be repaired. The bronze blade on the sundial is weathered and needs to be cleaned and coated to preserve against the elements. Oatlands is raising funds to have a conservation assessment done and then the proper restoration work.

This photo shows Mrs. Eustis in 1960 standing next to the sundial.

This photo shows Mrs. Eustis in 1960 standing next to the sundial.

Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program is part of the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a statewide collaboration to ensure the ongoing safety and stewardship of collections held by museums, libraries and archives in Virginia and D.C. The “Top 10” program raises awareness about the need for collections care while showcasing the importance of Virginia’s diverse history, heritage, and art and the role that objects play in telling those stories. From letters and books, to furniture and trains, items held in the care of collecting institutions are significant to telling the stories of our local communities, state, as well as the nation. This fun and educational project enables all citizens to take part in supporting the institutions that are entrusted with caring for our communities’ treasures.

Voting starts today and runs through midnight August 29 at There is no limit to the number of times voters may cast their ballot so vote early and often for Oatlands’ sundial! The final “Top 10” honorees for 2013 will be selected by an independent panel of conservators and collections care professionals and announced in mid-September.


About oatlandsva

Director of Development at Oatlands, a National Trust Historic Site.
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