Many of the staff and researchers at the Library of Virginia remember our colleague and friend Robert Young Clay for his vast knowledge of the records in our collections. Bob, who died last year, left his papers to the Library, and I recently completed processing them. I knew Bob for about eight years before his retirement in 2001. I recall how he assisted me with answers to some of my most puzzling questions, and seeing him helping patrons with their genealogical research.
I also remember his biting humor, lack of patience at times, the slamming of the phone receiver, and banging of a book against the reference desk.
But for those who never saw it, there was another side to Bob, and that comes across in some of the items contained in his papers. While much of the collection is made up of his research on the Clay family and its allied lines, there are also materials which demonstrate the personal side of Bob, a “kinder and gentler” side that not all staff or patrons may have seen.
Back in 1984, a certain reference archivist did not endear himself to officials in Fairfax County. Business owners in Mercer County, West Virginia, were growing increasingly frustrated with state officials in Charleston. There was even talk of the county rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia. “The way I heard … read more »
The Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Jefferson, 1779-1781, have been named one of Virginia’s top ten endangered artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums. The letters and manuscripts documenting Jefferson’s service as the second governor of Virginia address the challenges he faced during the Revolutionary War, the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, the negotiation of the boundaries of Virginia and her neighbors, and the dangers of the frontier. The papers are currently undergoing conservation treatments thanks in part to a $110, 000 grant received from Save America’s Treasures. Watch as the video shows Leslie Courtois, Senior Conservator with Etherington Conservation Services, as she works to restore these valuable records in the Library of Virginia’s conservation labs. Thanks to Paige Neal for her script writing and narrating, to videographer Pierre Courtois, and to Audrey Johnson and Dale Neighbors of Special Collections for providing images. For more information on the collection and grant see the earlier blog post “Grant Allows Jefferson’s Papers to be Preserved.”… read more »
”No people can be deemed masters of their own history until their public records, gathered, cared for, and rendered accessible to the investigator, have been systematically studied and the importance of their contents determined.” — Charles M. Andrews, Historian
Saturday, October 1, marked the official beginning of Archives Month, a nationwide celebration recognizing the critical role that archives and archivists play in preserving the documentary history of the nation.
Since 2002, Virginia has celebrated those institutions and individuals in the commonwealth that help preserve and make accessible the important records of our actions as citizens, businesses, religious groups, government, and society. The work of these repositories and individuals give us a sense of being part of a larger picture and helps us begin to see ourselves connected to others — family, community, nation or a group defined by ethnicity, religion, work or play. The result is a sense of belonging, direction and meaning. Far from focusing only on past accomplishments, those who care for our archives and special collections help provide us with a foundation for discussing the things that matter most in our communities today.
Archives Month is a collaborative project of the Library of Virginia, in conjunction with the Virginia State Historical Records Advisory Board, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.
This year’s … read more »
As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives. The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.
Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.
Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.
The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism can be found in commercial stationery, the most ubiquitous being “man’s best friend.” Dogs show … read more »
Archivists and others in history-related careers aren’t always known for being overly interested in embracing emerging technologies. A good many of us regard social media only as a fun diversion in our personal lives, with no obvious application to our professional goals. With that narrow mindset, we might as well cede the point to the chorus of naysayers proclaiming that the internet will eventually make libraries and archives irrelevant.
And yet somehow, Dale Dulaney, one of those “I refuse to ever join Facebook” guys, knew that social media could be the perfect tool to ignite an interest in and respect for archives and the work of archivists. He knew that the Library of Virginia (like so many other cultural institutions) had to make its relevance obvious in a time when crippling funding cuts are always a possibility. He knew that archives are often misunderstood or completely overlooked by the public at large. He also knew that the LVA’s archives housed all kinds of unique research treasures, records ranging from poignant to hilarious, to just plain useful. And he knew that we had at our fingertips a fast and low-cost way to show an often oblivious world that archives and archivists – what we have and what we do – matter.
I’ll spare you the details of the exhaustive work Dale invested to get this blog … read more »
News reports seem to conclude that yesterday’s earthquake, centered in Mineral, Louisa County, was the most powerful earthquake to ever strike the state. Fortunately, damage was light in affected areas and the Library of Virginia sustained no damage and is operating normally today. It made us think about the 1897 quake that, until yesterday, was considered to be the most powerful to hit the state.
At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon on 31 May 1897, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 5.8-5.9 and centered around Pearisburg in Giles County, hit the Atlantic Coast. According to the 3 June 1897 edition of The Tazewell Republican the Giles County Circuit Court, which had just reconvened, emptied into the courtyard without prompting. The paper reported that “…bricks flew from off the houses; riding horses secured to the racks about, broke loose and fled and neighed; the dust arose from the rolling earth…” The paper also described a general sense of panic.
Newspapers further afield, like The Roanoke Times, struggled to discern exaggeration from fact. Reports that Giles County’s Mountain Lake, one of two natural lakes in Virginia and a long-time resort area in the state, was drained by the quake proved to be false. Martin Williams, from Pearisburg, wrote the editor of the newspaper to dispel this report. “The earthquake was no worse in Giles … read more »
Located among the odds and ends of Accomack County court records is this 1758 advertisement from Landon Carter of Richmond County for his runaway slave Will. Landon Carter was one of the sons of Robert “King” Carter of Lancaster County and a rich man himself. The advertisement is typical of runaway ads in that it seeks to provide as much information as possible about Will in order to facilitate his recapture: looks, personality, friends and family, residence(s), and conjecture as to possible destination. The ads are always interesting for what questions they provoke: What was this “ill-Behaviour” that caused Will to be moved five counties north from Williamsburg to Richmond County? What characteristics did he possess that would cause his owner to call him “sensible for a slave” (presumably a compliment)? Were Will and Sarah particularly close, so much so that after his escape he risked fetching her so that she, too, could be free of slavery and the Carters? Did Will, Sarah and Peter make good their getaway?
(Citation: Accomack County, Free Negro & Slave Records Box 1, Barcode 1138011.)
-Sarah Nerney, Senior Local Records Archivist… read more »
Two hundred four years ago, August 3, 1807, the former vice-president of the United States, Aaron Burr, was put on trial for treason. At a federal court held in the Virginia state capitol’s Old Hall of Delegates, John Marshall oversaw the proceedings and many of the most prominent names of the early federal period were subpoenaed, including the president Thomas Jefferson. The trial brought into question, among other things, the issues of executive privilege, state secrets, and the independence of the executive branch.
Accused of plotting to foment war with Spain and seize land in the Midwest in order to form an independent nation, Burr was eventually acquitted of the charges. The trial records of the “Burr Conspiracy” are housed at The Library of Virginia’s archives along with the other records of the fourth circuit federal court. In addition to the original records of the trial, the LVA bookshelves hold numerous scholarly works examining the themes and controversies of one of the most sensational events of the day.
-Vince Brooks, Senior Local Records Archivist… read more »