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Tag Archives: Fredericksburg

- The Art of the Annual: The Virginia Yearbook Digitization Project


The 1972 Missile, Petersburg High School, Petersburg, VA, Petersburg Public Library System Collection https://archive.org/details/missilethe1972pete

In 2015, I started the Library’s yearbook digitization project to scan yearbooks from all around Virginia on behalf of public libraries. Thanks to funds from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we have been able to digitize and provide access to 2,308 yearbooks published though 1977, the year that copyright law impacts use. So far, 35 local libraries have contributed their yearbooks, with more in process. There is no set end date for this project; it will continue as long as IMLS funding supports it and there are willing participants.

While working with the yearbooks from the Library of Virginia collection, I began to notice the artistic elements of the yearbooks. Some of the earlier yearbooks, created between 1920 and 1940, were elaborately designed with embossed covers. Some were done in a mimeographed style or had handwritten headers. Others had fancy themed borders printed on each page. Beginning around 1950 until our stop date of 1977, the yearbooks became plainer and less crafted.

I was curious why earlier ones had more intricate and detailed designs, so I did some research. An article in NPR’s ‘The Picture Show’ called “For All You Graduates: A History Of Yearbooks” () gives some explanation:

George K. Warren (1832–1884) was an early American photographer working and living in the Boston area when the daguerreotype fell out of

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- A surveyor’s view of wartime Virginia

Sketch, entitled "Fredericksburg," from B. Lewis Blackford Sketchbook (Acc. 22177c) 

In May 1863, a team of Confederate topographical engineers surveying and mapping Louisa County were surprised by Union cavalry.  All but one of the team were captured.  B. Lewis Blackford managed to escape, despite losing everything except his horse.  “Among his losses,” his brother Charles Minor Blackford later stated, “was his note book, in which he kept copies of poems and other clever things he had written to various girls, all of which were published in full subsequently in the New York Herald, to whom they were furnished by their captor.  His note book was very handsomely illustrated also, as he was a good sketcher and drew exquisite caricatures.”

Seemingly undaunted by the loss of his notebook, Blackford in June 1863 began a new sketchbook, which eventually found its way into the Personal Papers Collection at the Library of Virginia (Accession 22177c).  The small (4”x 6 ½”) book contains 20 pencil and ink sketches.  Some are outlines and rough sketches of people and landscapes, while others are more polished. The finished sketches of members of Blackford’s company catch their personalities.  Blackford also captured the poignancy of war in his sketches titled “Fredericksburg” and “Chancellorsville.”  The first simply depicts a skull and bone and the second the ruins at the tiny crossroads.

Benjamin Lewis Blackford was born 5 August 1835 in Fredericksburg, to William Mathews Blackford (1801-1864) and Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford (1802-1896), … read more »