Twentieth-Century Manuscripts

By Rodman, Douglas B.; Shepard, E. Lee | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Twentieth-Century Manuscripts

Rodman, Douglas B., Shepard, E. Lee, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


WHEN the founders of the Virginia Historical Society met in December 1831 to declare their purpose "to discover, procure, and preserve whatever may relate to the natural, civil, and literary history of this state," their clear intention was primarily to collect papers, books, and artifacts of the great heroes of Virginia's past. One writer declared before the meeting that "no doubt . . . there lie, mouldering in old trunks, in closets and garrets, many letters and other manuscripts of men of former times, which a society, properly organized and well conducted, might bring out of obscurity and preserve from destruction." Most particularly, these gentlemen gathered in the hall of the House of Delegates wished to focus on the memorabilia of the leaders of Virginia's revolutionary generation and their colonial forebears. None seemed to take the least notice of the materials being produced in their own time by members of their own generation.l

Such was often the case, too, for quite some time, among family historians and inheritors of Virginia's artifactual, documentary, or published materials, as well as the curators and librarians who were the intended recipients of donations. Their collective focus tended to fall squarely on surviving items created many years past, not those of the most recent decades, as they determined what should be saved and what, dare we say it, destroyed. The failure to acquire and preserve the papers produced during our own century, even by members of our own electronically oriented generation, would similarly threaten to place future archivists and historians in positions analogous to those who struggle even now to piece together and retell the story of Virginia and Virginians of earlier centuries.

At the Virginia Historical Society, fortunately, collecting policies expanded and became much more inclusive over the years following the establishment of the institution. Only in the past few decades, however, has a concerted effort been made to secure substantial collections of twentiethcentury papers, not only from the most prominent Virginians, but from other citizens of the Old Dominion as well. For instance, the Society's exhibition "V for Virginia: The Commonwealth at War, 1941-1945," sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, alerted many Virginians to the importance of permanently preserving materials generated during World War II.2 Numerous collections of personal and family papers came to the Society as a result of that show, from former soldiers, sailors, government employees, and individuals who inhabited the wartime home front. With great pleasure we have witnessed since then an increasing number of collections dating from the Spanish-American War to the late 1980s enter the Society's halls, and with this selective listing we hope to encourage that crucial trend.

This annotated finding aid comprises a highly select group of collections that contain significant numbers or types of twentieth-century manuscripts spanning a widely diverse field of subject matter. By no means have we exhausted the list of modern collections at the Society, but rather we have tried to provide historians and other researchers with some idea of the depth and breadth of our twentieth-century holdings.3 Equally important, we hope that this listing will encourage many other Virginians to think of the Society as an appropriate repository for papers generated in this century, which will soon disappear if efforts are not made now to preserve them for future research.

Almond, Edward Mallory, papers, 1916-79. MsslAL683a. 323 items. This collection features military papers and correspondence of Edward Mallory Almond (1892-1979) of Luray. Lieutenant General Almond served in the United States Army during both world wars and the Korean conflict. Included in this collection are papers concerning his assignment as commander at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, his visit with Pope Pius XII during World War II, and his years with Douglas MacArthur in Korea, Japan, and the Philippines (including a report on the landing at Inchon and numerous photographs). …

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