News from Virginia Caucus: State of the State

Hello from the Old Dominion! The following is a list of updates from various institutions around the state concerning everything from new projects, acquisitions, and staff to recent and upcoming exhibits.
City of Fairfax Regional Library

I am pleased to report that in December 2014, Chris Barbuschak joined the staff of the Virginia Room, City of Fairfax Regional Library, Fairfax County (VA) Public Library. With an MLIS, he brings significant library reference experience as well as manuscript and photographic archives credentials.   Projects that have languished on the “To Do” list are being tackled!  It is great to have Chris on staff.

College of William & Mary

In 2014 W&M welcomed Kim Sims as its new university archivist. As university archivist, Sims will be responsible for documenting the history of the university, assisting in the development of strategies to manage and preserve digital materials, and creating policies for management of electronic theses and dissertations. She comes to W&M from Duke University where she served as a technical services archivist for the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Sims earned a master’s degree in public history from North Carolina State University and a bachelor’s in history from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

In February 2015, Swem Library will celebrate its new exhibit chronicling more than three decades of Virginia hip hop culture and history. A reception and gallery talk will be held on Wednesday, February 4 from 5-7 p.m. in the lobby of the library’s Special Collections Research Center, 1st floor. Guests will have an opportunity to see and hear the rich history of Virginia hip hop culture. The exhibit will feature a variety of material items tracing the local, regional and international importance of Virginia hip hop. Additionally, the exhibit will feature audio stations providing portions of oral histories and groundbreaking music as curated by the Virginia hip hop community. In addition to the exhibit, we will have a DJ spinning classic Virginia music, light appetizers and a gallery talk at 6 p.m. with Kevin Kosanovich, founder and assistant curator of the William & Mary Hip Hop Collection

Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center

The Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center welcomed a new employee, Heather Bollinger who as a MLIS and a MA in History. She brings great enthusiasm and experience in the technical aspects of running an archive.  We have started a new blog “Found in the Archives” that highlights unique documents that are part of our collection  We have also started Friday tours of the Historic Fairfax Courthouse and our facility. 
George C. Marshall Foundation Research Library and Archives

The George C. Marshall Foundation Research Library and Archives recently launched an online exhibit titled “Over There and Back: The Diary of Homer E. Simpson as Kept During the Great War” on the Google Cultural Institute. The exhibit features the diary of Private Simpson, a native of Covington, Virginia, and chronicles his wartime experiences from reporting for duty on May 22, 1918, through his discharge on June 26, 1919. Particularly poignant are the passages that Simpson wrote about being in the trenches when the armistice went into effect on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 AM. Other documents and artifacts, including Private Simpson’s helmet, gas mask, and medals also appear in the exhibit. The exhibit “Over There and Back” joins two other exhibits about the Marshall Plan and D-Day that the foundation’s research library and archives developed for the Google Cultural Institute.

George Mason University

George Mason University Libraries Special Collections & Archives has reached agreement on two important bequests in 2014.  In the first of these, benefactor David Stone announced his intention to bequeath his massive collection on Gilbert and Sullivan to the University Libraries’ Special Collection & Archives.  In a Mason News story by Corey Jenkins Schaut, the collection is described as “a treasure trove of Gilbert and Sullivan memorabilia, from original manuscripts to production materials to letters and personal effects of the two men and their partner, Richard D’Oyly Carte.”  The collection complements existing strengths in performing arts collections such as the Arena Stage Archives and Federal Theatre Project Collections.

The second bequest is the Hayden B. Peake Intelligence Collection, which consists of approximately 10,000 books and one authenticated George Washington letter.  Well-reputed in his field for his library, exhaustive reading, and expert book reviews, Mr. Peake has spent a lifetime assembling this comprehensive collection that represents the output of (mostly) English-language nonfiction books about intelligence from the first books published on the topic in the seventeenth century to the present.  Besides collecting inclusively, Mr. Peake has sought out specimen that are in the best, most complete condition to be found, and that feature original dust jackets (already preserved in plastic sleeves), author signatures, and marks of provenance such as bookplates and notations from important former owners who include Winston Churchill.  This collection will be important for research across many Mason schools and programs such as Intelligence Analysis and Technology, History, Political Science, and Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  The University Libraries has already received the George Washington signed letter — written by an identifiable member of Washington’s staff, to the officer commanding the militia in the County of Monmouth, Springfield, NJ, June 14, 1780, and authenticated by the Washington papers project staff at UVA.

Hollins University

In January, The Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University officially celebrates the first year of the Hollins Digital Commons (HDC). The HDC is an online repository of scholarship, creative works, and historical record of Hollins University.  Special Collections material includes a Gallery of Presidents, articles on Hollins history, images from scrapbooks, and medieval manuscript leaves.

Library of Virginia

LVA has several projects to highlight including:

Norfolk Southern Historical Collection

In 2014, a partnership between the Norfolk Southern Historical Collection, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and the Historical Society of Western Virginia (along with grant funding from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities) helped to document the stories of African American railroad workers in an exhibit and a book.  
African American Railroad Workers of Roanoke (2014) is the product of an oral history project undertaken by Roanoke’s African American Norfolk and Western Heritage Group.  The group was founded in 1996 with fifteen members retired before 1970, with a combined 170 years of service with the railroad.   Photographs and archival materials, along with oral histories, help to tell their stories, and along with it the story of the railroad.  Twenty interviews yielded more than 1,000 pages of transcripts.  The interview transcripts are housed in all three participating repositories.  Images and items from the Norfolk Southern collection were also used in related exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament: St. Francis “Rock Castle” and St. Emma “Belmead,” Powhatan, VA

The community at lives in the former schools – St. Francis de Sales School (for Black girls) and St. Emma Industrial and Agricultural Institute (for Black boys) in Powhatan, VA. It was later renamed St. Emma Military Academy and is also called “Belmead on the James.”  The Sisters and volunteers are restoring the buildings. St. Emma’s was the home of Philip St. George Cocke, an officer of the Confederacy who died in 1861. Colonel Edward Morrell (Pennsylvania National Guard) and his wife Louise Drexel Morrell bought the property and open St. Emma’s in 1895.  Mother Katharine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, built St. Francis de Sales High School on land adjacent to St. Emma’s.  Louise Drexel Morrell was Mother Katharine’s sister. St. Francis opened in 1899.
Cocke’s Mansion now houses offices of the Sisters and a small museum and archives of the two schools. The archives of the two schools are housed primarily in the Archives of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (Bensalem, PA) but many original materials, artifacts and photographs are in the Powhatan schools’ museum.  Both schools closed in the early 1970s.
There is an active alumni/alumnae group assisting in the restorations.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Special Collections and Archives at both libraries have been very busy. VCU Libraries is adding a new addition to the Cabell Library, so much of our time and energy has been devoted to this project. Both SC&A departments have worked together to get collections moved to their new home. It is so nice to have shiny new compact shelving that holds record center boxes! There is still much more to do, but we are excited about the changes. The new construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015.
Other happenings include:
  • The launch of VCU Libraries Gallery, an Omeka site to showcase items from our collections and host digital exhibits.
  • The Freedom Now Project, part exhibit, part crowdsourcing project, it displays images documenting the Farmville, VA civil rights protests in 1963. The public is invited to share their recollections and to help identify people in the images.
  • We welcomed Jessica Johnson, processing archivist, to our staff to assist with our processing backlog and anything else we can think of!

Virginia Historical Society

Beer Recipe from the Virginia Historical Society’s Collections Brewed by Ardent Craft Ales

A recipe for home-brewed beer found within the collections of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) inspired Ardent Craft Ales to brew up a batch of persimmon beer. Ardent Craft Ales chose a persimmon beer recipe, “Jane’s Percimon Beer,” from a cookbook kept by Jane (Randolph) Walke (1729–1756), her mother, Jane (Bolling) Randolph (1703–1766), and others. The cookbook contains recipes for food preparation, medicinal remedies and beer, as well as business accounts for household items and clothing.
“Dressing Downton: Changing Faison for Changing Times” at the Virginia Historical Society

“Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times” will be show in the VHS’s newly created changing exhibition space from October 2015 into January 2016. The exhibition consists of 35 costumes and accessories from the popular PBS MASTERPIECE Classic program. Visitors will be able to explore the lives of Downton’s aristocratic inhabitants and their servants during the World War I period.
Virginia Tech Special Collections

It was a busy year for Virginia Tech Special Collections in 2014! Among our more than 100 new acquisitions for the year, one of our donations included a handwritten acceptance letter to Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1873 (that’s the second year our institution was accepting students!). The student who received the letter, George D. Showacre from Greene, Va., attended VAMC from 1873-1875. We processed a variety of collections this year, including the tiny (2 inch x 3.25 inch) diary of Major Enoch Stephens, who guarded the Lincoln assassination co-conspirators and witnessed their execution in 1865. You can see the finding aid here. We also launched our new Omeka site as a way to share digital content with our local, regional, and global community: While we’re still working on it, there’s already quite a bit to see!

We were sad to have one archivist leave us in the spring, but we were lucky to hire two new faculty in the fall. Our new Collections Archivist, Sam Winn, and Processing and Special Projects Archivist, Laurel Rozema, both started in October. Sam will be working with the International Archives of Women in Architecture materials and will also help us branch out into collecting materials related to women and minorities in Virginia. Laurel’s first task will be processing some of our very large collections housed on-site and in off-site storage.

Virginia Military Institute Archives
The VMI Archives has added a number of new online collections to our digital content site.  These include an exhibit of 30 rare military maps used by Robert E. Lee during the Mexican War, dating from his service in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Two of the maps were drawn by Lee and bear his signature.  The maps and much more are viewable at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s