Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Virginia Historical Society: The Center for Virginia History-Annual Report for 2002

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Virginia Historical Society: The Center for Virginia History-Annual Report for 2002

Article excerpt


FOR much of last year, those of us who work in the history field became accustomed to hearing a continuing litany of grim financial news from colleagues across the country. Although the VHS has been more fortunate than many institutions, we also discovered difficulty during 2002 in bringing in the revenue necessary to maintain our ambitious programming. And yet, in spite of formidable obstacles, we persevered. In the end, thanks to the generosity of our friends, the leadership of our board, and the dedication of our staff, 2002 was a year of great accomplishment for our institution-in our collecting, in our programming, and in our interpreting of Virginia's rich and varied past. The obstacles we face in the future are great, but the record of last year's philanthropy, and the achievement that I hope this narrative discloses, should make us equal to the tasks that lie ahead.

The collections that the VHS holds in trust form the cornerstone of our institution. The care of these collections falls under the able supervision of our three curatorial departments, led by James C. Kelly, director of museums, Frances S. Pollard, director of library services, and E. Lee Shepard, director of manuscripts and archives and Sallie and William B. Thalhimer III Senior Archivist. Under their guidance, we experienced another banner year, acquiring thousands of remarkable objects, books, and papers. From individual items to mega-collections, our holdings grew at a remarkable pace. And yet, at the same time, that success put increasing pressure on our limited and fast-diminishing storage space.

We completed several large, multi-year projects involving our manuscript collections in 2002. These included publishing one handsome finding aid for the records of the Best Products Company, Inc., and another for the personal papers of company founders Sydney and Frances Lewis. This project was generously supported by Mrs. Lewis and by the Best Products Foundation.

The Custis Family Papers Restoration Project was among the first in a series of "Save America's Treasures" grants issued by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant was matched with funds from the Elis Olsson Memorial Foundation. This project enabled staff to inventory and restore some 770 documents, a large portion of which concern Martha or George Washington.

The Civil War Maps Digital Imaging Project, funded by a generous grant from Trustee Alan Voorhees, cataloged and scanned original Civil War maps in our collections. Digital images of these maps will be added to the Library of Congress's "American Memory" web site through a cooperative project that also involves the Library of Virginia. The richness of the VHS's Civil War holdings is underscored again by a grant we received from the Roller-Bottimore Foundation. This funding will permit the digitization of a thousand prints, photographs, portraits, artifacts, and other Civil War objects, which will eventually be available to the public through our online catalog.

We added significant collections to the VHS's Reynolds Center for Virginia Business History during 2002. Among the most important were the records of the Lane Company, Inc., from its former Altavista headquarters. A broad-based processing grant from the Minnie and Bernard Lane Foundation will greatly aid in our care of this collection. A grant from the Robins Foundation will likewise fund the conservation and processing of the A. H. Robins Company records, another cornerstone in the Center's holdings.

In 2002, we reissued our Guide to African American Manuscripts in the Collection of the Virginia Historical Society, featuring 46 percent more entries than appeared in the 1995 edition. A generous grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, through its AfricanAmerican Heritage Program, allowed us to distribute free copies of the new edition to more than a hundred libraries and archives. …

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